The vacuousness of Philippine politics is on a roll, delivering yet another no-surprise revelation: mutineer-turned-‘senator’ Antonio Trillanes IV may be inching his way towards a presidential candidacy for the 2016 elections. His statements on the matter are obviously just feelers at this point. He reportedly stated in Tagalog a few days back that he is “ready to run for higher office” — which really just means that he is now open to be included in a growing list of polticians’ names being tested for winnability by various parties, political commentators, and king makers.There is much debate and speculation surrounding that list of names. But at the end of the day, they are just names — not the ideas that the Philippines’ political ‘debate’ has long been bankrupt of. Indeed, even Senator Bong Revilla who is currently in prison waiting for his day in court on charges of pork barrel thievery is in the race for the 2016 presidential elections. Revilla’s in good company. Trillanes himself ran for senator and won while he was in prison for treason after which he was “pardoned” by President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III shortly after he won the 2010 elections. Classy.
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And like Trillanes, Revilla has his own high-horsed, albeit unoriginal, claim to the Philippine throne…
“If we need to sail in 2016, as long as our countrymen ask for it, I’ll be up to it because I’m innocent of the charges being hurled at me,” Revilla said in an interview on radio dwIZ. “I can look every Filipino in the eye, and I have nothing to fear.”
Indeed, anyone can be Philippine president as long as Filipinos “ask for it”. The presidency, after all, is a minimalist office as far as qualifications are concerned. One just needs to be popular enough to win an election. Not much in the way of professional qualifications are required. Just a brainstem and a winning smile.
For that matter, what is a president’s role in Philippine government anyway, other than an ATM machine for the pork barrel funds that members of Congress salivate over? As Inquirer writer Neal Cruz observed in his column today, “Yes, the 2015 budget is an election budget.” Everything in the Philippine Government has taken a backseat to the political challenge that lies ahead in the next two years — winning the presidential elections and raising the funds to bankroll that win.
It now might be worth organising a pot where people could place bets not just on who might win the presidency but on which critical public projects will be canned in order for Malacanang to cough up the much needed “savings” from which The New Pork Barrel can be harvested for this purpose. Suddenly entire airports, train systems, and highways may be at risk of being left uncompleted by the time Aquino steps down from office in 2016. For him it will be worth the stigma of being a no-results president. He needs every cent to ensure he does not get thrown into prison on account of the “wrong” president ascending power following that election.
That’s probably the reason why Department of Budget Management (DBM) Secretary Butch Abad has been burning the midnight oil coming up with creative ways to redefine “savings”. Any Supreme Court ruling or legislation that aims to thwart efforts to keep pork politics alive will always have its loopholes. The DBM Secretary only needed to find them before they were plugged. Indeed, Abad has his work cut out for him. According to Senator Miriam Santiago, pork remains alive and kicking in the 2015 national budget thanks to some sneaky clauses worked into its small print…
the 2015 budget invents its own definition of savings in Sections 67 to 70, particularly Section 68, which provides that savings can be declared at any time for whatever might be considered ‘justifiable reasons,’” she pointed out.
In the 2011 budget, Santiago said, savings and augmentation were defined as “portions or balances, which are still “available after the cancellation or final discontinuance or abandonment of the work, activity, or purpose for which the appropriation is authorized.”
But under the proposed 2015 budget, savings was now defined as portions or balances from “(a) discontinuance or abandonment of the program, activity, or project (P/A/P) … which would render it not possible for the agency to implement the said P/A/P at any time.”
Considering that hundreds of billions of pesos have been appropriated to various projects within the Executive branch this year, Aquino and his henchmen have lots of potential “savings” to be harvested to fund their political agendas in the homestretch of their term.
That’s enough assurance to put a permanent smile in Trillanes’s face, seeing that he’s worked hard enough to topple future Philippine President Jejomar Binay even before his term begins. It’s win-win for Trillanes. He will likely be richly-rewarded by his patron and pardoner for all that effort in the coming years. Even if does not get to be president, the mutineer-turned-‘senator’ will likely be laughing all the way to the bank.
Where does that leave the hapless Filipino Voter? Perhaps on the same boat as Trillanes — also laughing all the way to the alkansya. Elections are a time for lots of handouts and rewards at the grassroots level as well. Indeed, come to think of it, a large election-winning war chest of cash thanks to Abad’s brilliant creative budgeteering this year, will likely mean there will be an even bigger pot from which a lots more “incentives” could be made available to “help” Filipinos vote “wisely” in 2016.
Who says democracy does not pay? It does pay handsomely — specially when you are a handsome dashing military “adventurist”.
[Photo courtesy Interaksyon.com.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.