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Saturday, October 12, 2013

“Quo Vadis” Philippines ? - A Frightful Forethought Of The Future

As I finished reading Ricardo Saludo’s  column “The Mounting Pile of Aquinomalies” in the Manila Times issue of  Oct. 3, 2013, I was overwhelmed with ambivalent reactions, that of anxiety and exasperation. 
In the initial part of his article Mr Saludo stated; “Believe it or not, the Aquino administration has surpassed its predecessor in corruption. Between pork barrel trebling under President Benigno Aquino III to about P25 billion a year, his unaudited, unlegislated and unprecedented releases under the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP, P137 billion as of October 1), and smuggling hitting nearly $20 billion or some P860 billion a year, plus undiminished jueteng, these ‘Aquinomalies’ may already swell to over P200 billion a year.”

“Those figures easily dwarf the P7.8 billion average annual Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations in the last three years of then-President Gloria Arroyo, the $3 billion-plus in suspected smuggling every year under her and her predecessor Joseph Estrada, and even the P700-million fertilizer scam and the canceled P15-billion ZTE national broadband project.”

Mr. Saludo added; In terms of the pork barrel:  “Arroyo allotted P6.2 billion a year in 2008 and 2009, then P10.9 billion in 2010. That’s P7.8 billion a year average. Despite widely known PDAF anomalies, Aquino tripled his predecessor’s average to P24.8 billion a year from 2011 to 2013. Next year P27 billion was budgeted until the pork barrel controversy forced the House to zero the fund and redistribute it to state agencies (all under Aquino’s control, of course). “With no major PDAF reform instituted by Aquino until last month, and the activities of alleged pork barrel operator Janet Lim-Napoles and her ilk unrestrained till her recent troubles, it’s fair to conclude that congressional kickbacks continued well into 2013—and jumped after pork tripled since 2011. How much more? From P22.5 million per congressional district in 2010, PDAF allocations averaged P62.6 million in 2011 and P72.1 million last year.”

Mr. Saludo cited reference to an equally disconcerting findings of Mr. Rigoberto Tiglao, another Manila Times columnist and formerly with leading business journal Far Eastern Economic Review, who reported that “Smuggling in the Philippines is at its worst under President Aquino’s administration, with the smuggled value averaging $19.6 billion annually, an explosion from the comparable figures of $3.1 billion and $3.8 billion yearly during the terms of Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, respectively.” It should be noted that the analysis of Mr. Tiglao was based on the smuggling figures that came from an official statistical data.

In his conclusion, Mr. Saludo stressed : “So far, however, based on DBM budget and IMF trade data, the score is: Arroyo, P7.8 billion PDAF a year average, $3.8 billion estimated annual smuggling; and Aquino, P24.8 billion PDAF, $19.6 billion smuggling. At this game level, Aquinomalies win.”
Since I posted my first article about the PDAF scam, several significant developments have happened related to the government corruption in the Philippines. 

This week, Secretary Leila de Lima filed a plunder case with the Ombudsman against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Malampaya fund releases. This is the second  plunder case against the former President together with suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) over irregular Malampaya fund releases worth P900 million.

Charged with Arroyo and Napoles are former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita , former DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, former Budget secretary and now Rep. Rolando Andaya of Camarines Sur province, 2 former undersecretaries and 19 other former and current national government high officials. Whether this is a diversionary tactics from the government to overshadow the cases of PDAF and DAP will be subject to the interpretation of the Filipino people. 
More unsettling events came within the week. One was the filing of plunder charges against Pres. Benigno Aquino III filed before the Ombudsman by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Plipinas KMP. Charged with the President were Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala and Budget Sec. Florencio Abad and 10 others.

The other was the impeachment complaint filed against President Aquino III by Lawyer Oliver Lozano over the fund releases of P 72 Million from the Disbursement Acceleration Fund DAP without due appropriation from Congress.   

Only mid-way through its 6-year term, the administration of Pres. Aquino III is besieged with numerous alleged corruption anomalies more than his predecessors. Under intense pressure, the President took the galls to challenge Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and former Sen. Joker Arroyo to file an   impeachment case against him in relation to the constitutionality of his release of the DAF,  fully aware that the impeachment complaint will not reach “first base” since the proceedings  will be based on the “numbers” game in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

It is without doubt that the 2013 mid-term election is not only an acid test for the sustainability of the Aquino administration in its perceived economic achievements but most importantly serves as a prelude to the next presidential derby in 2016. The formidable victories of the administration and coalition candidates in the Senate and the House of Representatives definitively assured President Aquino III of a majority in the legislature needed to pass legislation for his programs legacy before he leaves office in 2016. Compared to former Pres. Marcos who corrupted the military, Pres. Aquino III enjoyed an overpowering advantage in the Philippine Legislature, thanks mainly to the PDAF and DAP.  

Furthermore, the domination of both the Senate and House of Representatives by the President’s allies may serve as too strong a temptation for the President to amend the Constitution in lifting the Presidential term limits in order to extend his term of office to access to absolute power.
Are we gearing for another possible dictatorship? Or is the next EDSA Revolution in the offing? Or in its worst, a military coup d’ e’tat?  While this is only a food for thought, it is dreadful to even contemplate on the realization of one of the aforementioned events, which is not impossible.

Rogelio G. Balo, Ph. D.
Central Valley, California USA
Oct. 4, 2013

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