President Aquino’s fantasy of winning a Nobel Peace Prize has cost us taxpayers a total of P8.6 billion, which was taken from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court yesterday.
The P8.6 billion was packaged and released from 2012 to early 2013 as the “Transition Investment Support Plan” (TISP) Fund” for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It was purportedly intended to stimulate the area’s economic growth in order to smoothen its transition to a Bangsamoro state, which will be set up by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
A major part of the P8.6 billion was disbursed practically as Aquino’s pork barrel to political leaders in the ARMM, who could have siphoned them to their pockets in the manner of Janet Lim Napoles’ pork barrel scam, which involved a “lesser” amount of P2.2 billion.
Ever since he made a dramatic move to meet with MILF top leaders in Tokyo in August 2011, Aquino fantasized—with his supporters stupidly lobbying the awards committee in Stockholm —to win the Nobel Peace Prize, on grounds that he ended the decades-old Muslim insurgency.
In their hubris, and in their canonization of Aquino, they thought that they could do “an Obama.” In 2009, US President Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize for reportedly fostering a “new climate” in international relations. Aquino and his people thought he could also get the same award for reaching a peace pact with the MILF.
His obsessive fantasy to become a Nobel laureate explains why he promised the MILF the moon and the stars, through his patently unconstitutional Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
It was easy to get the MILF to agree to a settlement, since he gave them what they wanted, which was the establishment of a substate, the Bangsamoro (Moro Nation), which its Central Jihad Committee would control with its army holding on to its arms, disguised as the Bangsamoro Police.
The biggest hurdle though—other than getting Congress to enact the law implementing the pact, and for the Supreme Court to clear it as constitutional—are the Muslims in Mindanao themselves.
The ARMM government and the bulk of Muslim political leaders and local officials in the region would in effect be sidelined by the agreement with the MILF, which actually represents a minority in the area, albeit an armed and very organized one.
In the same way a huge part of the DAP was used to bribe congressmen and senators to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona, the P8.6 billion thrown to the ARMM was in reality Aquino’s bribe for them to acquiesce in his promises to the MILF.
Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad themselves boasted in October 2012 that the P8.6 billion from the DAP “will be used to fund the transition processes towards the putting up of the Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the ARMM.”
“This year (2013), the government has committed P8.59 billion for the Transition Investment Support Plan (TISP) on top of the P12.93 billion already allocated through our budget,” Aquino was quoted in several newspapers at that time.
Indeed, the P8.6 billion thrown to the ARMM is nearly as big as the region’s budget already allocated by Congress, which was P11 billion for each year from 2011-2012 and P13 billion in 2013.
Strangely, the COA has not audited the use of these P8.6 billion funds, nor even of the ARMM government’s funds.
There is no mention of such “Transition Investment Support Fund” in any of the 2012 and 2013 audit reports for the provincial governments of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi as well as the 97 municipalities in these provinces.
While part of the TISP money were sourced from and implemented by the regional offices of national agencies such as the public works and agrarian reform departments, an undetermined amount were disbursed directly to provincial governors and town mayors for unidentified “livelihood, agriculture and fisheries projects.”
It was Aquino’s handpicked ARMM governor Mujiv Hataman who even distributed the checks in events widely published in Mindanao newspapers.
“Each of the ARMM provinces received an initial tranche of more than P10 million from the Transition Support Investment Plan for local fisheries and agricultural projects intended to improve the lives of farmers and fisherfolks in remote areas in the autonomous region,” the Philippine Star’s Cotabato City correspondent reported on January 22, 2013.
“We ought to thank President Benigno Aquino 3rd and the ARMM leadership for these grants,” the correspondent quoted vice governor Hadja Ruby Sahali. The paper reported that the P10 million checks were “only 47 percent of the total agriculture and fisheries TISP package for the autonomous region.”
That calculates to P21 million disbursed directly to each of the four provincial governors of ARMM. My sources said that each of the 97 mayors received P1 million as their allocations from the TISP.
These figures exclude other projects, which they could have dipped their fingers on, in the manner politicians manage to get a certain percentage of pork barrel funds used for small infrastructure projects.
Aquino in June 2012 inadvertently pointed to the likelihood that the TISP funds were just being pocketed. While he had been told that the funds had been released to the regions’ local governments, a report given to him showed that most of the projects listed “were not yet started or ongoing.”
“It was the talk here in Mindanao in 2012,” a Christian vice-mayor in ARMM had told me, “that Aquino was giving away millions to the leaders so they’d be quiet about the MILF agreements.” He added: “Even if the MILF under the pact will be ruling over them, have you heard a peep from them?”
The vice-mayor had a very worrying comment: “Many of us believe that some of that money even went to the MILF, which used it to buy more arms. So ask any Christian leader here—they are also arming themselves.”
Of course, perhaps the governors and mayors in ARMM are such selfless patriotic leaders that, unlike the senators and congressmen who siphoned off pork-barrel money to their pockets, they used Aquino’s bribe money to uplift their constituents’ lives and set up hundreds of “agriculture and fishery projects.”
But we have no idea if the ARMM politicians are “cleaner” than the congressmen and senators who received DAP and pork barrel money. Why? Because the COA has not seen fit to audit this P8.6 billion money given away by Aquino to the ARMM.
COA went through the P2.2 billion pork barrel funds allegedly handled by Napoles with a fine-tooth comb. Since she was part of Aquino’s team to persecute the three senators and implicate yet again former president Gloria Arroyo, COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan ordered a special audit in October 12, 2011 of the agrarian reform department’s use of the Malampaya Fund, which amounted to P900 million.
Has she ordered an audit of the P8.6 billion Aquino used to bribe the ARMM in the Mindanao area? Now that the Supreme Court has declared the DAP unconstitutional, shouldn’t all use of the DAP funds be audited?
We don’t expect COA’s Tan to move an inch because as reports would have it, she wants to continue being Aquino’s lackey so he will appoint her as a Supreme Court justice.