The thing with trying to pitch purported good intentions is that once the resources and the means to deliver those intentions have been tainted in the public eye, there is little hope for redemption. Malacañang, true to form always five steps behind when it comes to justifying its position on many matters of national consequence, has belatedly taken on the issue of why legislators (who are supposed to be spending their days legislating rather than executing) have a say in the way public funds are spent to begin with. Seemingly stammering through her explanation, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte issued the presidential message of the day (which, by the way, was in “agreement” with Senate President Franklin Drilon’s view) thus…
“At least at face value, you could see that [senators requesting for funds coming from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)] identified projects that fell under the implementing agencies,” Valte said in an interview over State-run dzRB.
While there were inputs from the legislators, the agencies were the ones that executed the projects, Valte said.
“The implementing agencies were still in charge of making sure that the projects were implemented,’’ she said.
And so we ask why these “senators” are entitled to their royal say on matters of how the disposal of public funds will be prioritised? Well that’s just the way it is. Filipinos do not seem to appreciate the real reason why Congress exists in the first place. If we are, for the sake of discussion, to take the whole principle behind their existence at face value, we’d take it as gospel truth that it takes 24 senators and hundreds of House “representatives” to ensure that the Philippines’ legal framework is kept up to par and that every aspect of how Congress operates is geared towards the aid of their foremost mission — legislation.
So Valte’s “clarification” is beside the point. The real points that she really needs to clarify are as follows:
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(1) Why do the “recommendations” of “Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Ralph Recto, Antonio Trillanes IV, Teofisto Guingona III, Sergio Osmeña III and now retired Sen. Francis Pangilinan” hold so much sway in Malacañang’s decisions surrounding how a bundle of money in “government savings” is spent?
(2) According to Drilon, “What is important is that these funds are used for the infrastructure projects so requested by the senators.” But why? Why is it so important that that senators be consulted when it comes to prioritising infrastructure projects?
Indeed, what is really noteworthy is the whole reason behind why there was so much “government savings” to begin with in 2011 and why the disbursement of these excess funds needed to be “accelerated”. It is because following his ascent to power, one of the things President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III did was to dismantle many projects started during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Interestingly, the way BS Aquino described the budget he supposedly inherited from Arroyo in his first State of the Nation Address in 2010 was that it was “depleted”.
So we asked back in July of 2010, How exactly does one “deplete” a budget?? Even back then, it was quite evident that BS Aquino was not receiving competent advise from his henchmen…
In accounting there are many concepts that describe outgoing funds, and just as many words to articulate these concepts: spent, disbursed, appropriated, accrued, allocated, provisioned, etc. Choosing the right word to use among those examples basically comes down to deciding whether funds referred to were set aside or moved to or from one account to another. A “budget” does not necessarily imply the existence of actual money. A budget is planned expenditure, and as such, the concept of a depleted budget does not make sense.
The fit of hysterics Malacanang went through over this ill-advised understanding of the government’s financial position resulted in a vindictive orgy of project and contract termination in subsequent months.
It was later found that these assertions about how GMA had plundered the national budget were unfounded and severely compromised the credibility of Aquino’s fiscal management team. Nevertheless, the government did underspend in the following year in 2011 which resulted in a marked drop in economic growth…
In 2011, the Philippines’ GDP slowed to 3.9 percent from the 7.6 percent growth in 2010, partly due to government underspending.
The economy could have grown by 0.8 percentage points more last year if the government was able to spend as planned.
The damage caused by President BS Aquino’s flawed understanding of his own government’s financial position in 2010 is suffered by millions of Filipinos today. Included in this furious purge was 1.9 billion pesos worth of flood control projects that perhaps could have saved Metro Manila from its slow death-by-flooding today.
[Photo courtesy Jerry Ocampo.]
I digress a bit there. The real point we need to appreciate here is that the DAP itself is a child of President BS Aquino’s own incompetent vindictiveness — that very same vindictiveness that, it seems also drove him (if the allegations are true) to use money from the DAP to, shall we say, “motivate” certain senators to deliver his preferred verdict in the 2012 impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In short: Why is there a DAP to begin with? Because President BS Aquino axed Arroyo’s projects in what seemed to be a monumental presidential tantrum in 2010. Why is Manila flooded two to three weeks in every month, every month? Because almost Php2 billion “saved” by BS Aquino in 2010 would have funded a lot of flood control projects.
And that is the Filipino’s lot in life on this planet. They get their hard-earned money taxed, which then gets stolen by the leaders they elected, and then they end up neck-deep in sewage-laced floodwaters for their trouble.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.