A lying president before the Focap

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As a Filipino, I find it embarrassing that our President in his speech before foreign correspondents seems to think that they’re stupid, that they wouldn’t see through his lies.

“Connect the dots,” he lectured them in his speech at the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) the other day, “all of these attacks came after plunder cases were filed before the Office of the Ombudsman against a few well-known politicians.”

He was quite obviously referring to as the “known politicians”, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla, Jr. and as the “attacks”, the outrage against his so-called “Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)” which critics have pointed out patently disregarded the General Appropriations Law.

But what happened, which is so easy to verify since the events happened only last month, is that the issue broke out as a result of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s bungling attempt to justify Aquino’s bribing of senators to take out Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

On September 25, in order to defend himself from the allegations that he stole money from his pork-barrel funds (officially, Priority Development Assistance Funds or PDAF) Senator Estrada in his privilege speech claimed that administration senators were given an extra P50 million in such funds as their reward for removing Corona.

Aquino’s DAP “stimulus program”: ARMM Governor Hataman distributing P1 million checks from the fund to his governors this year.

Aquino’s DAP “stimulus program”: ARMM Governor Hataman distributing P1 million checks from the fund to his governors this year.

Even as the usually clueless Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang arrogantly denied Estrada’s allegations, claiming that the “records are there,” senators, including those allied with the administration said that they did get not only P50 million, but P100 million as additional pork in 2012.

September 26 the next day, Abad issued a press release. Nope, he confidently announced: there were no such additional pork barrel funds released to the senators. Rather the funds were part of DAP, he said, designed to stimulate the economy.

What? You can just imagine the senators looking at each other, and shaking their heads, and commenting: “What the heck is this ‘DAP’?”

Another Abad blunder: In his confused thinking that it would prove that there was no such bribe, Abad claimed that even Senator Joker Arroyo, who voted to acquit Corona, got P47 million out of the DAP.

That’s when the s— hit the fan, as it were. Minding his own business and blissful in his retirement, the very credible and articulate Arroyo—the closest adviser of the President’s mother Cory Aquino—blew his top and went to town, shouting, “What the hell is Abad saying?”

The rest of course, to use the cliché, is history: The nation was shocked that a president could be so arrogant, dictatorial, or dopey—or all of these—to throw to the dustbin the budget law that specified how taxpayers’ money would be spent, and to invent a “DAP” that directed government money to any use at his, or Abad’s, whim.

If there was a conspiracy, as Mr. Aquino claimed, it was a conspiracy of Abad’s idiocy combining with his imperiousness: That senators, constitutional experts, and the thinking public wouldn’t see how illegal the DAP was.

In his Focap speech, Aquino even claimed that two years ago, “media lauded government” for its DAP, “that it (funded) projects that have helped perhaps millions of our countrymen.” Aquino said that the DAP “helped us overcome the inertia that the economy was experiencing then . . . and we are sustaining the momentum up to now.” He credited the DAP for the 6.8 percent GDP growth in 2012.

Aquino is lying, or is living in his own fantasy world.

I’ve searched and searched, I could find no news report, no opinion column —not even from his known apologists, not even in statements of his spokespersons or releases by the Philippine Information Agency—praising, the DAP as a factor in the country’s economic growth.

Even the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asian Development Bank had absolutely no reference to Aquino’s DAP in their monitoring reports of the Philippine economy. This is in sharp contrast with regards to his predecessor President Arroyo’s “Economic Resiliency Plan” which however didn’t’ hijack funds from projects specified by the budget law and which allowed the country to weather the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

The only reports on the DAP were press releases issued by Abad’s department in December 2011—when Aquino gave it his OK—and in January 2012.

Very strangely though, after that, there were no longer any references to it, and none of the usual boasting by Aquino that it reflects his competence and innovativeness in overseeing the economy. Why?

Very strangely, this administration, to this day, hasn’t made public any official document signed by Aquino or by Abad ordering or authorizing the setting up the DAP. Why?

The answer to these questions is quite obvious.

After Abad’s enraptured announcement on the creation of the DAP in December 2011 and January 2012 Malacañang lawyers or administration stooges in Congress whispered to him and Aquino: “Stop mentioning this DAP, it is illegal, even grounds for impeachment. Just allocate the funds, but don’t say where it is coming from.”

And indeed anyone who last read about the DAP in January 2012 forgot about it.

Abad obviously forgot that warning and pointed to the DAP in his klutzy attempt to reply to Estrada’s allegations in September.

In his speech, Aquino also claimed: “I was perplexed to hear that some people equated the DAP with PDAF, when, simply, it was a program that strategically allocated funds to agencies that had already proven the capacity to implement projects and programs rapidly and efficiently.”

What a liar. Work on the P1 billion Tacloban International Airport—in opposition congressman Martin Romualdez’s home province—was ongoing when Abad hijacked P718 million of its budget and put it in his DAP.

Were the following allocations by the DAP—based on official DBM releases—fast-moving programs that stimulated the economy in 2012?

• P8.6 billion to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which Aquino himself complained in June 2012, were slow moving or were not even started yet. The ARMM government had so much money that as late as this year, its governor Hajiv Hataman was distributing checks for P10 million to the regions’ provincial governors.

• P1.8 billion to the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army and the Moro National Liberation Front ostensibly for the training in livelihood projects of their surrendering guerillas;

• P1.2 billion given to the interior and local government department, which couldn’t be used at the end of 2011, according to the COA, because the department didn’t even have a work plan on how to spend the money;

• P2 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development for such projects as day-care centers and its endless “supplementary feeding projects’; and, of course, the biggest allocation,

• P13 billion or nine percent of the P142 billion DAP as additional pork barrel for members of Congress in 2012, on top of their P24 billion PDAF.