Garapal: Abad’s DAP loot for Batanes

Apologies to my readers who don’t like the use of street lingo, but that was the Filipino word that immediately entered my mind when I read yesterday that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s home province of Batanes, his fiefdom, got P133 million from the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

That made Batanes the third biggest recipient of DAP funds among political districts, after Mandaluyong City, which got P203 million, and Cavite’s first district, P186 million. Both districts have congressmen who are Liberal Party stalwarts. That’s according to the report published yesterday in this newspaper by the respected Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, based on budget department documents.

I think garapal–which I would translate as “astonishingly, blatantly greedy”–would be the precise word. I’m reminded of a slogan I’m sure Abad was fond of in his anti-Marcos youth: “Sobra na, tama na.” (“This is too much. Enough!”)

Abad is not only the architect of the DAP, which, he has been insisting was done to stimulate the economy. He also implemented the DAP, and really had more say than President Aquino as to who got the DAP money, and how much.

And he gave P133 million to his home province, the tiniest in the country with a population of a purported 16,403 souls. The PCIJ’s figure surprised me as the data I had based only on the “Detailed List of DAP Projects” released by the budget department showed a much smaller amount of P11 million that miniscule Batanes received.

The PCIJ had more detailed documents and my figure referred only to DAP funds received right before the May 13, 2013 elections, with barangays given P100,000 each, quite obviously in one way or another, to buy their votes. (See “Aquino and Abad used DAP funds for 2013 elections”, July 28, 2014.)

I said “purported” population, since at least a third of those residents actually spend most of their time in Manila (like Abad and his family), away from that typhoon-battered, mostly isolated island, so that it has only about 6,000 registered voters, including Abad and his family.

Abad should have just distributed the money to the ATM accounts of the constituents of his wife, Congresswoman Heredia Abad, and each one would have had P11,533 in savings accounts, which they could have used as seed money for their pension plans.

I hope Abad can explain to the nation – the prostituted Senate, of course, would believe and applaud him – how giving P133 million to Batanes for such projects as “greening and beautification programs” and “integrating Ivatan living culture to the school curriculum” contributed to stimulating the economy, supposedly the reason why DAP was undertaken (Ivatan is the term for natives of the island).

A joke in Marcos’ bureaucracy attributed to his Prime Minister Cesar Virata went like this: “If we count all the infrastructure money we’ve given to Mindanao, that entire place should be a cemented parking lot now.” That joke, budget department sources say, now applies to Batanes with the pork-barrel funds it has received.

But looking at the pork-barrel funds (officially the Priority Development Assistance Funds, or PDAF) Abad and his wife have been getting under President Aquino, it isn’t at all surprising that the budget secretary won’t be left out in the distribution of the DAP he invented. (See table.)

From 2010 to 2013, the period covered by the unconstitutional DAP, Batanes received P192 million in pork barrel funds, approximately the same amount as that given to each of the provinces with populations a hundred times bigger than Abad’s kingdom in the north, such as for instance, Leyte and Quezon each with about 1.6 million people.

How unjust is that? Is that good governance?

Batanes is one of the relatively well-off provinces, with only 18 percent of families poor in 2012, a bit better than the national average of 20 percent. Yet, it received pork barrel funds nearly as big as provinces with larger populations and the highest poverty incidences such as Apayao, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao.

In per capita terms, or the pork barrel fund per province divided among its population, Batanes received P11,533, seven times that of Apayao, and 52 times that of each of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, more than half of whose populations are poor.

And Abad, his fans say, is a crusading reformist?

However, even the massive pork barrel funds thrown into Batanes province didn’t seem to help the poor in the diminutive province. Poverty incidence there, in fact, worsened from 14 percent in 2004 to 17 percent in 2009, to the last estimate of 18 percent.

A simplistic explanation would be that the poor never got to taste those funds.

But where did it go? I’m tired of hearing small minds say that Abad is a saint who wouldn’t touch the people’s money, and that they “know him.” Who is the architect of DAP and why can’t the so-called “Mr. Clean” account for all the DAP funds? Why did Abad give such a big share of the loot to his tiny home province instead of the larger, more needy provinces?

The yellow believers’ former mantra was accountability. Why is it that this big virtuous word applies to everyone except to “Saint Abad?”