Public outrage is escalating to fever pitches over revelations that the administration of Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III (1) baldly refuses to recognise the ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional, (2) refuses to release coherent details around the manner with which DAP funds were appropriated and released and, yet, (3) remains adamant that he and his henchmen had used the DAP “in good faith”.
Information by the bucketloads has been coming to light. Included in this torrent of incriminating facts are revelations that thousands of DAP-funded ‘special allotment release orders’ (SAROs) had been funneled into the offices of members of Congress. The Inquirer reports that 90 percent of the these SAROs were accounted for by releases to members of Philippine Congress on top of their routine pork barrel allocations. Budget Secretary Butch Abad reportedly refuses to confirm the figures while House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte says that he is not yet privy to a “full accounting” of the funds in question.
The fact that “more research” is required and that proper accounting reports are not readily-available to both of these top-ranked officials of the government already indicates the gross mismanagement of tens of millions of pesos of Filipino taxpayers’ funds that routinely goes unnoticed in the Philippine government.
This follows disturbing reports that the Philippines has slipped in ranking again in another development indicator that describes an aspect of its society that is critical to building a strong and prosperous nation. The recently-released Global Innovation Index (GII) for 2014 has seen the Philippines dropping ten rungs in the global ranking to 100th out of 143 countries evaluated.
The Global Innovation Index (GII) uses 81 indicators to rank the innovation performance and potentials of 143 national economies around the world. It is co-published by WIPO, Cornell University and INSEAD. Higher or lower grades on the GII suggest weaker overall competitiveness of a country, as a separate Global Competitiveness Index used by the World Economic Forum puts greater weight on nations’ creative economies and ability to innovate.
Within the southeast Asian region, only Cambodia and Myanmar ranked below the Philippines, while communist Mongolia and holiday island Fiji ranked higher.
While not as obvious as the outlandish degeneration of key infrastructure around the Philippines, such as Manila’s derelict (and ironically-named) Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and flatfooted electricity distribution network managed by the now Indonesian-owned Manila Electric Company (MERALCO), the relentless dumbing down of the Philippines’ ability to innovate its way out of its wretchedness is a wakeup call to the gloom in the country’s horizon.
Innovation is driving much of economic value created in the modern world while labour-added-value is now the province of far more underdeveloped economies. The Philippines has all but lost its place in the club of increasingly-affluent southeast Asian economies in which it was once a proud member. The way the DAP was handled is a case in point. No less than the President, echoed by sidekick Secretary Abad, has been continuously insisting that the DAP along with his government’s other cash dole-out initiatives have “benefited” the Filipino public. Perhaps this may be true — to an extent that falls short of the real sense of national development funding.
It is a given that the DAP along with its close cousins, the so-called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), are essentially slush funds used for greasing political agendas. But even if used honestly, funds released through these conduits tend to go to individual politicans’ pet and populist projects meant to temporarily alleviate isolated instances of impoverishment rather than bankroll truly visionary investments that expand the broad underlying physical, social, and intellectual capital base of Philippine society. The types of public works and projects that build capital at that scale are usually driven by long-term strategic thinking and planning rather than the whimsical lip service paid by politicians to the tiresome chronic neediness of their individual constituencies.
That billions of pesos in Filipinos’ hard-earned money cannot be accounted for on demand by its custodians is a testament not only to astounding institutionalised thievery but also to a lack of a visionary and/or strategic plan to frame the way this money is invested back into the nation.
Where to go from here? It is obvious that the justice system, which struggles to dig its way out of a mountain of pending cases even in normal times, will utterly fail to prosecute ALL of who are culpable for this appalling crime and dereliction of civic duty. To date, only three senators and a handful of their staff are in prison awaiting trial, while no less than President BS Aquino is covering up the misdeeds of Cabinet secretaries and top agency officials. Even more disturbing, the nation’s most revered thought leaders — its showbiz celebrities — are scrambling to bring to bear their awesome hold on Filipinos’ minds to shore up the President’s rapidly collapsing popularity.
As the Philippines convulses its way through this unprecedented national crisis, one stark reality comes to the fore: There is no justice in the Philippines. That much we can ascertain out of this gawd-awful mess as prospects for a convincing resolution, much less a satisfying closure in the face of billions of pesos lost forever grow dimmer by the week.
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