Abad should be indicted for stonewalling COA probe

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It doesn’t really matter if pork-barrel scam queen Janet Napoles was telling the truth or not when she said that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, when he was congressman, taught her how to use non-governmental organizations to steal from legislators’ pork barrel funds.

Abad’s crime is that he stonewalled the Commission on Audit’s (COA) three-year special audit of the use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the pork barrel money. For that, President Aquino must fire him, and the Ombudsman must indict him for obstruction of justice.

Abad refused to give COA investigators the data they asked for, which raises suspicions that he gave information mainly about opposition legislators especially the three senators now facing arrest and incarceration.

This is not my allegation but was contained in the COA report itself, which, in fact, was formally submitted to Abad himself in August 2013 by the audit team’s head Susan Garcia. The report’s page 5 states:

“The DBM could not provide the team, despite repeated requests, with the complete schedule of releases per legislator from PDAF for soft projects . . . ”

According to the COA team, the DBM released a total of P116 billion from 2007 to 2009 in pork barrel funds, both in the form of soft projects and hard (infrastructure).

Abad, however, provided documents on legislators’ disbursement of funds amounting to only P45 billion. He refused to provide documents on funds amounting to P70.4 billion, or 61 percent of the total, so that the COA had to label these in their report as going to “unidentified solons” which they were unable to audit.

In short, Abad hid and buried the data which would have showed how P70.4 billion in PDAF funds were used and by whom.

In the case of senators, Abad provided data on 79 to 100 percent of the pork barrel funds of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla.

In contrast, NO documents at all were provided in the case of senators Francis Escudero and Jamby Madrigal, who in fact were not mentioned in the entire COA report, as if they were not members of that 14th Congress. Apparently, in an amateurish hope that no one would notice why these two senators weren’t included, Abad provided documents on the pork barrel of Juan Flavier and Ramon Magsaysay, Jr.—both of whom were no longer in the Senate from 2007 to 2009.

Abad provided documents on only 15 to 30 percent of the pork barrel of Senators Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda and Ralph Recto and about half of the funds of Alan Cayetano, Rodolfo Biazon, and Francis Pangilinan.

But then alleged whistle-blowers Benhur Luy, his associates, as well as Ruby Tuason —who became state witness for returning P40 million—testified against the three senators, didn’t they?

Yes, but all that testimony, in the cold courts and not in the heat of television, would all boil down to a “he-said, she-said” situation.

How could the testimony of people who admitted to crimes overturn the word of senators? In former President Estrada’s case, Chavit Singson and Atong Ang testified that they handed over cold cash to Estrada. But banks cooperated to open Estrada’s accounts where the dirty money was found—bolstering the two’s accusations.

But this time, I would think the three have already emptied their bank accounts. They’ll argue: “If we stole from the pork-barrel where is it? Maybe, it’s a figment of these low-lifes’ imagination.”

However, Abad and Aquino apparently planned for the COA report to provide the documentary evidence to support the whistle-blowers’ testimonies. Clever indeed.

It is COA’s de facto accusation that Abad stonewalled its audit of PDAF that raises a huge cloud of doubt whether Aquino’s prosecution of the three senators is his campaign against corruption through pork barrel funds. Or is it just a vindictive, selective attack on the opposition?

Maybe it is a kind of poetic justice for hypocrites who sold their souls to help Aquino savage the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Renato Corona. But Aquino and Abad have also used it to demolish the opposition, in their game plan to perpetuate their rule after Aquino steps down in 2016.

Abad, King of Reforms
Rather than debunking a popular demand for Abad to resign, his friends have resorted to mostly “but-I-have-known-him-as-honorable” arguments.

A columnist I respect wrote in her piece last week wrote: “Abad is doing a good job as budget secretary—as he did in his short stint as agrarian reform secretary under Cory Aquino, and as education secretary under Gloria Arroyo. We need more like him.”

I nearly fell off my seat hearing that from my former economics professor. President Corazon Aquino pushed Abad in December 1989 to the agrarian reform department when she fired secretary Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

The feisty lady would later claim that she was sacked for raising serious questions regarding Hacienda Luisita’s agrarian reform program, which the Supreme Court finally ruled a sham last year. Abad would serve as secretary for four months leaving April 15, 1990, after he had put in the finishing touches for the Hacienda Luisita’s fake land reform that made its farmers into sham stockholders. A “good job”? For whom? The Cojuangcos, obviously.

After that, the supposed champion of reforms spent his next nine years continuously as sole congressman for Batanes (population, 16,000 plus), which would be his family’s fiefdom complete with a mansion on top of the small island. Just like any run-of-the-mill politician his wife of course took over his post, since a consecutive fourth term is prohibited by law.

He and then his wife, of course, would collect their pork barrel—the same amount as for other bigger provinces. They should have just distributed it to the 4,000 families of Batanes there to make it an instant middle-class neighborhood.

In his nine years as congressman, this champion of Philippine reforms authored 10 laws he couldn’t boast as earth-shaking – which includes the making of August 21 as a national holiday, known as Ninoy Aquino Day.

He became education secretary July 2004, when I was Presidential Chief of Staff. He couldn’t even handle a squabble between the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Education Department over teachers’ GSIS benefits, and the Palace had to be the referee.

My office also then was starting a probe into what was and still is among the biggest money-making ventures in government– providing usurious loans to public school teachers. The syndicate was helped by corrupt DepEd officials who collected for the criminals the teachers’ loan payments through the payroll. In effect, the lending was virtually risk-free (the usurious practice still exists). I don’t remember Abad talking of reforming that system or, for that matter, any reforms in the department.

It was his undersecretary Juan Luz who seemed to be running the department, and Abad was always on some “important meeting.” We would learn later what those important meetings were: planning and implementing the Hyatt 10 conspiracy, a stupid revolt via “press conferences.”

What about the claim that he was a good budget secretary under Aquino? Absolutely not. He squeezed the budget so much that it starved the economy and infrastructure development in Aquino’s first year in office. He didn’t program properly the funding of capital projects such that they are now playing “catch-up” in the last two years of their administration.

The most ass-licking defense of Abad was written for an online-only news site by Filomeno Sta. Ana, who’s been in Abad’s NGO crowd most of his working life. He unabashedly wrote: “Abad would make a great president. But he, vilified as the king of pork, is really a king of reforms.” What reforms?

Sta. Ana says Abad was responsible for the hard measures sin tax and reproductive health. I’m sure the finance secretary would have a mouthful to say about the sin tax. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, slapped down the RH bill nearly unanimously.

I’m sure though that it was Abad who made this one drastic change in government that he thought was a monumental reform. This was his baby, the “Disbursement Acceleration Program,” which juggled the budget so that bigger bribes can be given to senators (including Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla). Realigning this money through the DAP is patently illegal. But Abad and Aquino needed the money to pay off the senators so that they would go along with their pet project of removing the Chief Justice. King of Pork, indeed.