Friday, August 29, 2014

Biggest secret of all: Aquino’s P220 billion pork barrel

Biggest secret of all: Aquino’s P220 billion pork barrel
by RIGOBERTO TIGLAO
June 29, 2014
The Manila Times

In my column on Friday, I explained that behind the pork barrel furor engulfing the nation are three cover-ups managed by the Aquino administration.

The first is the fact that with the utter demonization of “pork barrel queen” Janet Lim Napoles, the Aquino government has covered up the bigger operations of a mysterious person or gang that in fact siphoned off P4 billion of taxpayers’ money into legislators’ pockets. That is practically double the P2.2 billion Napoles allegedly handled.

The second cover-up involves the fact that out of 325 House of Representatives members and 17 senators, the Justice Department, the Ombudsman’s investigators, and their stable of whistle-blowers have singled out only three senators—Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla—leaders of the opposition, with the latter two in fact having declared that they would be running either for president or vice president in 2016.

Isn’t that way too convenient, that the barrage of charges against the two, their arrest and incarceration have painted them as crooks, two years before elections in 2016? Isn’t that too convenient, with the ratings of Mar Roxas—Aquino’s bet for 2016—slipping from about 17 percent at the start of the year to single-digit levels in recent polls, with his rival Jejomar Binay, allies of Enrile and Estrada, moving from 53 to 57 percent?

The third cover-up is the Commission on Audit’s (COA) failure, refusal, or foot-dragging in undertaking an audit of the use of funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from 2010 to 2013, or during Aquino’s watch, as well as of his patently unconstitutional new form of pork, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds.

The PDAF releases from 2010-2013 (already the Aquino administration) totaled P62.5 billion, double the P26.1 billion from 2007 to 2009, which is the subject of the current pork-barrel cases at the Sandiganbayan.

But these are dwarfed by the DAP, which totaled P157 billion from 2011 to 2013 according to official data from the Budget department itself (www.gov.ph/2013/10/07/qa-on-the-disbursement-acceleration-program).

That is, Aquino’s pork barrel since he assumed office amounted to P220 billion –P62.5 billion PDAF released in his first three years, plus the P157 billion DAP. Yet so far, the COA has turned a blind eye to these suspicious siphoning off of public funds committed during the term of Aquino.

COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan—who provided the theatrics in Napoles’ demonization by calling the use of 2007-2009 pork barrel funds as “kahindik-hindik”—must answer four questions:

• Has she issued the office directive ordering the COA’s special audits unit to undertake an audit of the PDAF from 2010-2013, and of the DAP from 2011-2013, in the rigorous manner the agency audited the funds released from 2007 to 2009? It is not just me who’s asking for an audit of the PDAF funds from 2010-2012. It was the second highest official of land, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who as early as last year, and as reported in newspapers on August 31, 2013, demanded that the auditing should not only include the years 2007 to 2009, but also the years until 2012.

• Is the Department of Budget and Management cooperating fully in providing the COA all the documents it has been asking for? (For the 2007-2009 audit, it refused to surrender all documents the COA asked for, most probably those dealing with Aquino’s allies and Liberal Party stalwarts.)

• Given the fact that such an audit of Aquino’s PDAF and DAP would clear the COA and this administration of the accusations that they are not really on an anti-corruption drive but on a campaign to bury the political opposition, has Tan deployed more auditors so the audits can be accelerated, considering the amounts involved are eight times bigger than those for 2007-2009?

• Can she promise the nation that the audit of Aquino’s pork barrel will be finished this year, and not after the 2016 elections?

Would Tan stonewall the audit of Aquino’s pork barrel as a quid pro quo for her to be appointed soon as a Supreme Court justice? We hope not.

COA must immediately audit Aquino’s pork because it involves a much larger amount of P220 billion, which is eight times the P26 billion pork for 2007-2009.

More importantly, Aquino had blatantly used the PDAF and the DAP especially in 2011 and 2012 to bribe first members of the House in filing an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona, and then the senators to convict him.

This has been established not only by testimony of those receiving the funds (it was Jinggoy Estrada who exposed it in October 2013), but also by the timing of the funds’ releases. (See my columns: “P559 million released before Senate vote vs. Corona”, Sept. 29, 2013 and “DBM data confirms P100M ‘bribe’ to 16 senators each,” Oct 3. 2013.)

Another P4 billion was disbursed to congressmen in 2012, at P15 million each, for having filed the impeachment case against Corona.

Think about it. With Aquino bribing congressmen and senators by throwing at them millions of pesos worth of pork barrel funds, would he or his officials have tightened up procedures to make sure that the legislators don’t steal the proceeds, as they had done in 2007-2009?

Or, as rumors have circulated, was it Napoles herself and another still unidentified mastermind of the pork barrel scam who helped the legislators, with Aquino’s endorsement, to steal from the pork barrel bribe the president gave them so they’d remove Corona?

Was Napoles’ participation in the pork barrel bribes in 2011-2012 the reason for her inexplicable confidence that she would survive her current nightmare, for Aquino to personally see her in Malaca├▒ang when she surrendered in August and accompany her to the police headquarters?

Or was it an Abad-Napoles tandem in this bigger pork-barrel scam under Aquino? Note that Abad was a congressman for nine years, from 1995 to 2004, who religiously collected his pork barrel that was used for his 16,000 constituents in his tiny province of Batanes.

Especially since the COA had asked him for documents for its 2007-2009 audit, it is impossible that Abad did not know how people’s money was being stolen through the pork barrel system.

Did he advise Aquino that this is the easiest way to bribe Congress so it would remove Corona, and recommended Napoles to help out? Was it this that Napoles was really referring to when she wrote in her sworn statement that it was Abad who taught her how to use NGOs for the pork barrel scam?

For all of Aquino’s sickening blah-blahs about “walang mahirap kung walang corrupt,” did he ever talk against the pork barrel system before it was exposed in 2013?

Since he, and he alone, directed the use of the DAP, Aquino used these funds as his own personal treasury. Undeniably, Aquino’s hands are tainted with pork barrel money.

Note also COA’s wrong priorities to support Aquino’s fake anti-graft campaign.

In another move to persecute former President Arroyo as well as to pin down Napoles and the three senators, the COA undertook a special audit of P900 million of the Malampaya funds coursed in 1999 through the agrarian reform department starting in 2011.

But what may be compared to the Agrarian reform department’s Malampaya scam is the P8.6 billion—ten times the Malampaya money—Aquino gave to the ARMM from the DAP funds, purportedly to accelerate the region’s development.

And how were these distributed? Through Aquino’s hand-picked ARRM Governor Mujiv Hataman who even had a media-covered ceremony distributing P10 million in checks to officials of the region in January 2013. Aquino even complained at that event that Hataman wasn’t disbursing the funds quick enough!

For all its posturing as an anti-corruption body, the COA under Tan will be judged by history as another institution prostituted by Aquino, unless she orders the audit of this president’s P220 billion pork barrel, the biggest amount of government money ever put under a president’s sole whim in our history, and the biggest secret of all in this saga.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

EDSA

EDSA
Ni ROLAND TOLENTINO
February 24, 2014
Bulatlat.com

Ito ang pangunahin at pinakasiksik na kalsada sa Metro Manila. Ang dating henerikong kalsada na Highway 54, ang EDSA ay ipinangalan sa bayaning si Epifanio de los Santos noong 1959. Nawala ang mga publikong espasyo at pribadong bahay, mabilisan ang transformasyon tungo sa tuloytuloy na hilera ng mga pabrika’t negosyo.

Sa simula ng Highway 54, ito ay kinatatakutan dahil sa pagiging mapanganib. Literal na highway robbery dahil walang nagpapadilim sa pagdaan dito. Pinalawak ang dating grabang pandalawahang sasakyang kalsada, naging labindalawahan. Matapos, isinalansan ang mga flyover noong panahon ni Corazon Aquino para maibsan ang trafiko.

Nakumpleto ang underpass at flyover pero nanatili ang trafiko. Isinalansan pa sa ground level ang MRT na lalong nagpasikip sa trafiko. Nakadagdag rito ang higit na nagsisiksikang malls at shopping centers na hindi nakakapagtakang nasa mga underpass at flyover, pati sa stops ng MRT.

Ang konsentrasyon ng kapital sa EDSA ay patunay na nagsasaad ng modernidad ng syudad at bansa na may koloraryong paglikha ng invisibilidad sa politikal. Ang EDSA ng pagbabago ng serye ng People Power ay naglaho na. At ang memorialisasyon ng pagdanas nito–ng isang higanteng birheng tanso sa bukana ng mall at flyover, at sa walang kalatoylatoy na tableau ng sama-samang pagkilos sa kanto naman ng military camp at exklusibong subdibisyon ng nouveau riche–ay hindi na nakakatawag-pansin sa nadanas na masibong kolektibong pagkilos ng mamamayan.

Ang memorialisasyon sa pamamamagitan ng spektakulo ng monumento, sa pagkaliblib ng ebentwal na pagtatayo ng literal na infrastruktura ng kapital (flyover, subdibisyon, mall, MRT, military camp), ay higit na nakapagpatago sa posibilidad na ang politikal ay muling mangyari. Kahit pa ang hindi napapansing mga monumento ay pagpugay sa mga awtor ng People Power–ang Katolikong simbahan sa harap ng Robinson’s, at ang natatanging si Ninoy Aquino sa foreground at ang tsuwariwap na mamamayan sa likod nito sa White Plains–ito pa rin ay sekular na memorial sa patuloy na pagpapadaloy ng kapital at depolisitisadong pagkilos sa EDSA.

Lalo pang nagsisiksikan ang EDSA ng karagdagang high-end malls at high-rise condos. Mas siksik, mas maganda. At dahil kulang na ang espasyo, walang ibang paraan para masiksik kundi paitaas. Ang kolonisasyon ng kapital sa EDSA ay nagpapahiwatig ng pananakop sa field of vision na rin nito: ang tanging natatanaw sa EDSA ay mga eksena ng kapital sa kaliwa’t kanan ng pagtunghay.

Kabilang dito ang mga higanteng tarp, ang enclosure na likha ng MRT at mga gusali ng negosyo, ang panorama ng trafiko ng mga behikulong nagsasakay ng mga manggagawa, manager at estudyante, at mga mall at condos. Ang paradox ng pagtanaw ay tila walang hanggan ang pwersa ng kapital pero mula sa statikong posisyon ng tumatanaw.

Sa literal na antas, statiko dahil nakapako o pausad-usad lang ang tumatanaw sa trapiko ng EDSA, o kung nasa MRT man, madalas sa madalang, ang mimikong pagsisiksikan ng mga pasahero sa hindi umuusad na trafiko sa ibaba. Sa figuratibong antas, statiko dahil sa dinami-rami ng dinadaanan ng biswalisasyon ng kapital–mga produkto sa mga tarp, nag-aayang mga mall at condo, magagarang sasakyan, mararangyang subdibisyon, at iba pa–ay hindi naman accessible ang tinatanaw sa tumatanaw.

Ang statikong pamamaraan ng pagkilos sa EDSA ay siya ring panuntunan sa pagdanas ng mayoryang mamamayan sa kapitalismo: sa reprodusibilidad ng pagdanas sa franchise na negosyo ng fastfood, tarp subkultura, malls at gasolinahang magtitiyak ng pagtuloy na padaloy sa tumutunghay sa iba’t ibang panig ng bansa, pati na rin ang pribatisasyon ng pagdanas sa mismong mga bahay. Tumatanaw, nakakadanas pero parating kulang o said.

Ang EDSA ng buhay ng syudad ay siya ring EDSA ng buhay ng bansa sa kapitalismo. Maraming natatanaw pero wala naman talagang tinatanaw. Lahat ng dumadaan ay overdetermined na maging sabjek ng kapital, pero hindi naman lahat ay may kapangyarihang makapamili kaya nagiging objek na lang ng kapital. Ang katawang may aksesorya ng kapital, pati ang katawang wala, ay katawang pinapadaloy ng kapital sa mismong pagpapadaloy ng kapital sa mga lansangan at sityo ng negosyo.

Kinikilabutan ako tuwing iniisip kong kailangan kong dumaan ng EDSA dahil walang katiyakan kung kailan ako makakarating at makakabalik. At may batayan naman pala ang aking pangamba. Ang EDSA ko ay EDSA na hindi ko naman inakda, inakda para sa akin para maglangkap ng pangamba at takot, at sa statikong pagkatengga sa trafiko, ang maaliw sa nakakapanghalinang imaheng namumutiktik sa kalsada. Wala akong magawa kundi tumingin, tumanaw at tumanga.

Si Roland B. Tolentino ay faculty sa UP College of Mass Communication at kasapi ng Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND-UP). Para sa komentaryo, maaring mag-email sa roland.tolentino@gmail.com.