Aquino at WEF: A lying credit grabber

What a lying, credit grabber we have for a President. I was stunned when in his speech at the recent World Economic Form on East Asia, he said:

“Dismantling the culture of corruption was a promise we made to the people . . . Our efforts were not limited to those in the highest positions; we want to institute integrity throughout the bureaucracy. This is why, through programs called Revenue Integrity Protection Services (RIPS), Run After The Smugglers (RATS), and Run After Tax Evaders (RATE), we have filed a total of 487 cases against those who allegedly committed offenses as of April 15, 2014.”

If I were there when he made the speech, I’m not sure I could stop myself from throwing a shoe at him, and shouting “Liar”! Read on to understand why I’m angry.

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All of these programs, which Aquino claimed for himself, were in fact all set up and institutionalized (through executive and administrative orders) by his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He has contributed nothing to their effectiveness since he assumed power:

  • The RIPS program under the department of finance was set up under Executive Order No. 259, issued Dec. 17, 2003 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;
  • The RATS program under the Customs Bureau was  set up through Customs Special Order No. 24 2005 issued in May 2005; and
  • The RATE Program was set up under the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s Revenue Memorandum Order NO. 24-2008,  in order to bring to the bureau level the RIPS and its focus on smugglers.

Arroyo’s top priority

The former president made the organization of these bodies her top priority until they worked effectively and became the institutionalized programs that they are today.

What was also crucial was that she secured a $20.7 million grant from the United States Agency for International Aid for the government’s overall anti-corruption campaign, with $9.4 million allotted for the RATE program and $3.1 million for RATS.

That is the biggest special funding ever made for an anti-corruption drive in our post-war history—in peso terms, it amounted to P1 billion.

The grant’s title explains its purpose: “Strategic Objective Grant Agreement Between the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines to Strengthen and Enforce Anti-Corruption Measures.” The funds were also used to strengthen other government anti-corruption agencies, especially the Ombudsman and including the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission.

Has Aquino done anything to strengthen these entities? Did he give them additional funds, even from his illegal Disbursement Acceleration Fund, or through an increase in their budgets? None. Zero. Zilch.

Much of the successes of these agencies in fact were the result of their work during the past administration.

“We have filed a total of 487 cases against those who allegedly committed offenses as of April 15, 2014,” Aquino claimed in his speech.

The figures, I was told by my sources, show that 300 or two-thirds of these (which include the cases filed in or by the Ombudsman) were investigations started or filed, by the previous administration.

While I will be reporting more detailed information on these in succeeding columns, the credit grabbing is obvious in the case of the Department of Finance’s (DOF) RIPS.

In fact, to bolster Aquino’s tall tales, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima ordered his staff in the past weeks to go on a media blitz. They wanted to paint a rosy image of his boss’s anti-corruption campaign, but their campaign was so amateurish that the lies are too obvious.

In the finance department’s press releases on May 21 (timed just before the start of the WEF), it claimed that RIPS filed graft cases against 207 government staff.

But in the same press release (and in its website), it says that this number  is the total number of  cases filed since since 2003, or when RIPS was created by Arroyo. So how many officials were charged during Aquino’s term? A lot, the release boasted: 94.

The idiots at the DOF didn’t even bother to use their calculators. That means there were more officials—113—who were charged by RIPS during Arroyo’s watch.

Charges filed years ago

In the same press release, and to bolster its false boast, the DOF claimed:

“Zenaida Chang, BIR assistant commissioner of Financial and Administrative Services, was relieved of her post on orders of the Office of the Ombudsman. She was found guilty of Serious Dishonesty and Gross Neglect of Duty. The Ombudsman also ordered the filing of forfeiture proceedings to recover her ill-gotten assets.”

When was the case filed? Back in Dec. 4, 2009—yep, during Arroyo’s administration. It was the Ombudsman, which issued the decision. The present RIPS didn’t have to do anything with it.

Did they bother to mention that  this victory should be at least shared with the previous by the previous administration? Of course not, it would destroy the Yellow Cult’s “good versus evil” narrative.

In the same press release intended to fool gullible reporters to write puff-pieces for Aquino during the WEF meeting, the DOF claimed that among RIPS’ outstanding accomplishments were the dismissal of a BIR couple, a jail-term meted on a retired Customs examiner, and the three-month suspension of a BIR assistant regional director for not including her properties in her Statements of Assets and Liabilities.

Of course, it didn’t mention that the charges against them were filed at the Ombudsman in 2005 and 2006, with the difficult, rigorous investigations to compile evidence done in 2003 to 2005.

The list of such misleading press releases goes on and on.

Did I spend a lot of time to do research to uncover and expose Aquino’s lies regarding his anti-corruption reforms?

Not really, since I was participant in and eyewitness to Arroyo’s anti-corruption campaign then, and this leads to why I said I probably would have shouted “Sinungaling” at Aquino as he was giving his speech.

The Transparency Group

As Presidential Chief of Staff, upon Arroyo’s instructions to jump-start her anti-corruption campaign and overcome the inertia of the bureaucracy, I organized in 2002 in our office what we underplayed as the “Transparency Group.”

The group, which included veteran investigators from the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police, began the lifestyle checks on officials in agencies notorious for graft, which led to several convictions by the Ombudsman. Those lifestyle checks have become the template for those undertaken since then and being undertaken by the RIPS and by the Ombudsman.

A more permanent, and “embedded” unit a year after was set up in the DOF to take over the Transparency Group’s work in  checking  graft in the Bureau of Internal Revenue and in the Bureau of Customs.

That permanent unit that was created during Arroyo’s time is the RIPS, with RATE and RATS following that template. The Transparency Group was dissolved. We were actually happy of being relieved of that task, since we, especially its head who is now with Aquino’s government, were getting death threats.

Whether these were serious or just empty bluffs, having to look over your shoulders constantly and having armed bodyguards wherever you go isn’t a comfortable lifestyle.

You understand now why I’m so pissed off by Aquino’s lies? And the delusion persists that Aquino launched the campaign against corruption? On Wednesday, I will explain with facts and figures why corruption in fact has worsened.