I wrote this for the Philippine Online Chronicles.
It is with a twist of irony that President BS Aquino, who carefully built an image as an anti-corruption crusader since winning the 2010 elections, now faces impeachment raps over the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
DAP is another form of pork barrel under the sole discretion of the executive, an instrument for patronage politics and a source of graft and corruption used by the administration to ensure the loyalty of political allies.
DAP, a mechanism for transferring funds from different agencies of the government into other projects favored by the Aquino regime, has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. According to the constitution, Congress has the exclusive power to allocate funds.
It can be remembered that DAP became public knowledge only after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada exposed DAP as the source of money used to bribe senators to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
From the paragon of good governance that his media handlers project him to be, BS Aquino is now ridiculed as the ‘pork barrel king’ and the ‘thief executive.’
Little contribution to economy
The BS Aquino regime stubbornly defends DAP as legal and beneficial to the public as an economic stimulus in a live speech on primetime TV. And yet government documents themselves, as examined by think-tank Ibon, show that the projects funded by DAP have little contribution to the economy.
In fact, the biggest allocation through DAP, P40 billion, falls under the heading of ‘Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and payment backlogs.’ P8 billion was simply for the improvement of various government offices, facilities, and equipment.
P1 billion was spent superfluously for the ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ international tourism PR campaign and beautification for hosting the World Economic Forum earlier this year and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in 2015.
Much of DAP funds functions exactly like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) with P17 billion going to priority local projects requested by legislators and local government officials while P35 billion went to infrastructure and local projects, ‘peace and development’ in armed conflict areas, and trainings for NGOs.
More shamelessly, P5.5 billion compensated landlords including for Aquino family’s own land estate Hacienda Luisita. More than P2 billion of the P13 billion allotted for the Department of Public Works and Highways and other government agencies was spent for roads in Aquino’s home province Tarlac.
Meanwhile, P9 billion was paid to big business groups involved in public-private partnerships for school-buildings and higher education.
Three impeachment cases
Two impeachment complaints filed in succession on July 22 and 23 charges the president with “culpable violation of the Constitution” and “betrayal of public trust” for implementing the controversial DAP.
Twenty eight leaders of various anti-corruption groups led by partylist representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis lodged the first complaint. Meanwhile the second complaint was filed by youth organizations Youth Act Now, Anakbayan, and student council leaders from various universities.
A third impeachment complaint was also filed against the president on July 24 for the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States which critics said is a violation of the constitutional prohibition of foreign troops and bases presence in the country.
For sure, an overwhelming administration majority in Congress will do everything to block the impeachment process. It would not be surprising considering that BS Aquino allies in Congress largely benefited from DAP.
But for the complainants, only impeachment can hold the Pork Barrel King accountable within the legal framework of the ruling system since the president is immune from suit. It is necessary to impeach the president first before criminal charges can be filed.
Unfortunately for the BS Aquino regime, its popularity continues to slide as more and more of those who earlier believed his anti-corruption rhetoric now feeling betrayed and disillusioned.
Any move by BS Aquino allies to kill the impeachment cases without allowing for any proper deliberation would be seen by the public as a sign of guilt. The Thief Executive is simply courting another people’s uprising that can lead to the regime’s ouster.
The explosion of the DAP controversy portends the beginning of the end for the BS Aquino regime.