Bristling at the tag “pork barrel king,” President Aquino on Wednesday accused his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, of accumulating close to P1 trillion in discretionary fund to stay in power.
The President, assailed over the release of P1.107 billion in pork barrel to senators after the Senate convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012, shifted the spotlight on the Arroyo administration in the current saga of scams.
The President himself wondered whether portions of the alleged Arroyo loot were being used in black propaganda against him.
“It could have surpassed P1 trillion. How much was lost, stolen and played around with, or used in transactions to stay in power?” Aquino said at the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals’ Grand Breakfast at the SMX Convention in Pasay City.
“Is it too much to suspect that this money is now being circulated to undermine your trust in daang matuwid (straight path)? To sow trouble and terror in many forms, and challenge those of us who had long been abused, and are now seeking justice to hold the violators accountable?” he added.
Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, is under house arrest on plunder charges.
And while he’s become the target of criticisms over the large-scale misuse of the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, the President vowed not to turn his back on reforms.
“I just shake my head when I get called pork barrel king even if I have removed the discretion to commit graft; I have tightened spending, stopped budget reenactment and insertion, misuse of lump sum funds, and even the over-importation of rice. You be the judge of what runs in the minds of those saying this,” he said.
When he assumed the presidency, Aquino said he was aware of the stumbling blocks and danger that lay ahead.
“I’m not Superman; I can be hit by bullets, be poisoned, or even be attacked with a knife. But we have crossed over. We’ve made a choice. We can be cowed by fear, or fight for the right. We can turn a blind eye to or enforce the mandate given to me by the Boss. We will do what is right,” he said.
“Let’s be clear on this: Neither the exposé of Mr. Benhur Luy, nor the arrest of Mrs. Napoles started our campaign against corruption,” said Aquino who accepted the surrender of Janet Lim-Napoles, dubbed the pork scam queen, on Aug. 28 and escorted her to Camp Crame for detention after she said she feared for her life.
Studies on Arroyo scams
The President said initial studies had shown that the Arroyo administration skimmed off P637.36 billion in savings from reenacted budgets; P23.33 billion from the Malampaya Fund; and a P177-billion loan for rice importation.
“The fund that became discretionary and that could have been used to perpetuate the padrino system is estimated at P836 billion,” he said.
These are on top of the P140.6 billion accruing from the “doctored” automatic outlays in the General Appropriations Act, he added. All the four items add up to P978.29 billion. These four mechanisms had been put to a stop, the President said.
“If we put it side by side with this: Their average annual budget in close to 10 years was P1 trillion every year. Isn’t this very abhorrent? That they had at their disposal a budget equivalent to an annual national budget and used it as they pleased?”
“We’re not done seeking answers to our questions: Who did it, what exactly did they do, where did the money go, who benefited? Who are the real culprits? We’re not doing this by chance. We’re gathering evidence directly from agencies, despite the traps,” he added.
After the National Bureau of Investigation filed charges against Napoles, three senators and 34 others over the P10-billion pork barrel scam, the Aquino administration has found itself responding to criticisms about fund releases to senators after convicting Corona in May 2012.
Clear abuse of PDAF
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, one of those charged in connection with the scam, divulged in a privilege speech on Wednesday the release of P50 million to senators’ projects following Corona’s conviction.
In May 2012, the senators voted 20-3 to convict Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Joker Arroyo voted against his conviction.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad confirmed 20 senators received additional pork barrel amounting to P1.107 billion months after Corona’s conviction. He denied the amount released was a bribe for the Corona ouster.
In his speech, the President said he had abolished the system of PDAF and cleared the filing of charges against key scam players to put a stop to the abuse of the discretionary fund.
As more pieces of evidence are gathered, more charges will be filed against other personalities, he added.
“It’s clear the abuse of PDAF was wrong. Many had been deprived of opportunities because of the misuse of this fund, especially if we factor in the multiplier effect of the program. It was wrong to use bogus NGOs. It’s estimated that P10 billion was diverted from this racket. That’s why, it’s time to reveal to you the product of bad governance that we inherited and we’re trying to fix,” Aquino said.
Saying media should keep their “eyes on the ball,” President Aquino is seeing a conspiracy behind the attacks against his administration in connection with its controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
“Since I am in a room full of journalists, perhaps I can leave it to you to connect the dots,” he told the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) forum in Manila.
“All of these attacks came after plunder cases, among others, that were filed in the Office of the Ombudsman against a few well-known politicians.”
The President did not name names, but was apparently referring to Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla. The opposition senators, along with 35 other respondents, were charged with plunder for allegedly taking part in a P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Aquino said it was “difficult to fathom how one could equate” the DAP with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was enjoyed by both senators and members of the House of Representatives.
He claimed that the stimulus program was being “unjustly and oddly vilified in the media … nearly two years after the same media lauded the government for its resourcefulness.”
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on Nov. 19 on petitions questioning the constitutionality of the DAP, a little-known impounding mechanism for government savings from which was sourced, according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the P50 million in additional pork barrel funds given to each of the 20 senators who voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona in May last year.
The DBM explanation was issued after Estrada, in a privilege speech, revealed that “incentives” were given to senators after the conviction of Corona.
Veteran Senators Joker Arroyo and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, along with a host of constitutional experts, including Fr. Joaquin Bernas, have averred that the Constitution prohibits the transfer of funds in the General Appropriations Act from one department to another.
By the President’s own admission in the Focap forum, the DAP—just like the PDAF—allowed legislators to channel funds to projects of their choice. Still, he had his defense.
Consultations with lawmakers
“The only thing one could remotely relate to PDAF were those projects undertaken through consultation with our legislators,” he said.
“After all, just as we engaged regional offices, local partners, and civil society in identifying projects, was it not also appropriate to hear the proposals of the elected officials of the land?”
Aquino added: “Taking this into account, such projects by the legislators made up a mere 9 percent of the program. Why, then, is the DAP being made an issue?”
“Nine percent” meant that a total of P12.8 billion was given to legislators in additional projects from 2011 to 2012, based on official budget records.
The amount (which was 9 percent of the P142.23-billion savings released through the DAP) was a little less than half of the P24.8 billion in pork barrel senators and House member enjoyed during that period. In short, congressional pork barrel increased by almost 50 percent because of the DAP in 2011 and 2012.
Aquino sought to justify his move to allow legislators to dip their fingers into DAP funds this way. Quoting an “older politician,” he asked: “Who will remember you come election time?”
‘Eyes on the ball’
“Those that you have managed to help find work, those that you have educated, those that you have helped gain medical attention,” he said. “You’re a politician. You’d want to be reelected. Your work, therefore, has to devolve to constituency work.”
In November 2011, a month after the DAP was announced, senators submitted projects amounting to P100 million each, to be funded from pooled government savings.
Senators Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vicente Sotto III, Estrada and Revilla then sought to transfer their allocations from the Department of Agrarian Reform to National Livelihood Development Corp.
Copies of letters bearing their signatures indicated that they nominated as project implementers foundations linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the P10-billion pork scam.
Aquino said he did not need to “remind” the media of “the true issue that has seemingly been drowned out by all the background noise.”
“And so I ask you: Let’s keep our eyes on the ball,” he said. “The public was outraged by the audacity with which public officials allegedly stole from the national coffers through the PDAF. This is an outrage we share, and this is precisely why we abolished the PDAF, and followed the evidence so that we may hold all those who committed wrongdoing accountable.”
“Our media and our people are far too good—far too wise—to be grossly and brazenly led to the wrong issue. Plunderers should be taken to account,” he added.
The President noted that attacks against the DAP “coincided” with criticism against bonuses received by Social Security System (SSS) officials, and his administration’s “reforms” at the Bureau of Customs.
SSS board members were assailed for gifting themselves with a P1-million bonus each, even as the state pension agency was planning to increase monthly salary contributions by 0.6 percent.
SSS president Emilio de Quiros (brother of Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros) was also in the hot seat for flying abroad—allegedly first-class and all expenses paid—every two months since he assumed office.
But Aquino insisted that the “framework” for the bonuses was “outlined” in the law governing government-owned and -controlled corporations.
“In the midst of the cacophony of voices, the journalist must be able to separate the important from the frivolous, the spin from the facts, the malicious lies from the simple truth,” he said.
Aquino called ‘Teflon President’ after allegations fail to stick
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
2:09 am | Thursday, October 24th, 2013
President Aquino on Wednesday attributed his rather strong sense of ethics to consistency of his character, desire to seek and speak out the truth, and conscious effort to lead a simple life despite his being the most powerful man in the land.
Aquino said this when asked why criticisms didn’t seem to stick to him in the aftermath of revelations that Malacañang had tapped the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) mechanism in the national budget to provide additional pork barrel to senators last year.
At the annual presidential forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines on Wednesday, the President had a chance to engage the media in a wide-ranging discussion of burning issues of the day, including his emerging public persona as a “Teflon President.”
Teflon, a nonstick substance present in cookware, was first used in American politics to refer to US President Ronald Reagan, who enjoyed widespread popularity despite the scandals surrounding his stay in the Oval Office in the 1980s.
The term has since referred to politicians who are able to withstand criticism without a major effect on their popularity.
“How do I do the consistent performance of an ethical behavior? Well, first of all, I guess I really have to give credit to both my parents who actually formed the ideology that I follow,” Aquino said, when asked about his resilience despite the corruption scandals that involved government officials, past and present.
He noted that his parents’ “best practices” were inculcated in him at a very young age, including “the sense of responsibility.”
“But at the end of the day, I think that if there is one thing that I can find myself with a relation with our people is consistency and always seeking to tell the truth at all times. It may be an unpopular truth but I guess I think I have been very consistent since even before entering public light, to stand by what I say and also to do what I say,” said the President.
He was also asked about the trappings of power and how, as Chief Executive, he would resist the daily “temptation” that come his way.
“Well, we were always taught to have simple lives. We were taught to be very disciplined at a very young age and I guess it helps that I went to an institution … during martial law years … that also … taught that to resist—or to effectively resist an oppressive structure—you have to live a simple life,” he said, referring to his alma mater, Ateneo de Manila University.
“The more you are wedded to things, from material nature, various systems, to certain privileges, the less effective you will be in fighting the oppressive structure. And we have tried to live by those [ideals],” he said.
But while he continued to enjoy the support of majority of the electorate, Aquino may have to work harder to regain his previous standing in the polls.
His net satisfaction rating dropped by 15 points in September based on a recent survey by Social Weather Stations (SWS) at the height of the Zamboanga siege and pork barrel controversy.
The SWS survey conducted among 1,200 respondents from Sept. 20 to 23 showed that from a “very good” rating of +64 in June, Aquino’s net satisfaction rating fell to “good” at +49.
The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points for national and 6 percentage points for area percentages.
The survey showed that his net satisfaction rating dropped in all areas and in all socioeconomic groups though it was still within or above the range of “good.”
He blamed the previous administration for this dip in his satisfaction ratings, admitting that the “pork barrel scam” did have an effect on his ratings.
He pointed the finger at the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, during which the misuse of pork barrel was widespread.
“Who was sitting in Malacañang then? Not us,” Aquino asked.
What do the recent surveys tell us about the impact of the pork barrel scandal on President Aquino? The first round of reporting and analysis of the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia surveys, which were conducted roughly at the same time in September, seems to have ranged between dire prognostications of devastated ratings and the first suggestions of a Teflon presidency. The more likely reading, however, is somewhere in the middle: A popular President has sustained a small hit but retains considerable goodwill.
As far as longer-term implications are concerned, however, it’s rather too early to tell.
The two main polling organizations track three different measures of popularity. SWS tracks satisfaction with a public official’s performance in office; it asks each voting-age respondent “gaano kayo nasisiyahan o hindi nasisiyahan” (how satisfied or unsatisfied are you) with the performance of a particular public official. In the case of President Aquino, the Sept. 20-23 survey found that his satisfaction rating slipped from 76 percent in June to 68 percent in September.
Pulse Asia measures both approval and trust ratings. It asks survey respondents whether they approve of a public official’s performance or not, using a five-point scale: “talagang aprobado, aprobado, maaaring aprobado at maaaring hindi aprobado, hindi aprobado, o talagang hindi aprobado.” The survey firm also asks the respondents how big or small (“gaano kalaki o kaliit”) is the trust they place (“ang inyong pagtitiwala”) in a particular official. In the case of President Aquino, the Sept. 14-27 survey found that his approval rating rose from 73 percent in June to 79 percent in September, while in the same time frame his trust rating remained statistically steady, at 76 percent.
Those who focus on the SWS data, especially the polling organization’s tradition of showcasing net satisfaction ratings (that is, percent satisfied minus percent dissatisfied), have tended to read gloom and doom in the drop in the President’s rating. His net rating did fall below 50 percent for the first time since May 2012; worse, it dropped by 15 points between June (64 percent) and September (49). But precisely because net ratings require subtracting the number of dissatisfied from the number of satisfied, an official’s actual satisfaction rating can get lost in the shuffle. The President’s 68-percent satisfaction rating in September, however, would be the envy of many other heads of government around the world; to give only the most obvious contrary example, US President Barack Obama’s approval ratings have hovered around 50 percent for the longest time.
Those who focus on the Pulse Asia date, on the other hand, have tended to interpret the latest results as proof of a Teflon or unstainable presidency. Despite relentless coverage of the pork barrel scandal and disclosures about possible misuse of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, Mr. Aquino’s approval and trust ratings are still sky high. A three-quarters trust rating, midway through a presidential term, is rare indeed. But there are warning signs. His distrust ratings in the National Capital Region and in the Visayas, for instance, have reached double-digit levels.
But the bottom line is: Two months after the pork barrel scandal broke with disclosures about the alleged scam perpetrated by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, several weeks after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s privilege speech focused national attention on the now-controversial DAP, the President’s popularity—however you measure it—remains robust.
His current standing is no guarantee against future declines, of course; much depends on how he will slay the dragon of political patronage, while continuing to use political resources to stimulate economic growth. But just as it would be unreasonable to interpret his popularity as devastated by the pork barrel scandal (the latest numbers just don’t support the notion), it would be folly to accept the Teflon claims and grow complacent.
Mr. Aquino’s continuing popularity is potent political capital. Would that he use it not only to ensure that those behind the pork barrel scam face justice but also that the conditions that allowed such a scam in the first place are removed, for good.
Aquino: 'I am the one now being called the 'Pork Barrel King'?
by President Benigno Aquino III
Posted on 10/30/2013 7:53 PM | Updated 10/30/2013 9:41 PM
Over the past few months, a few topics have come to be the focus of public discourse. With the cacophony of discordant voices coming from many different sides, perhaps the subject of the Pork Barrel and DAP has begun to leave you confused. I am asking you for a few minutes of your time in order to bring clarity to these issues.
You are all witnesses to the conflict taking place. On one hand, there is you and your government, to whom you gave the mandate for change—a government that has implemented reform for the past three years and five months, pursuing the corrupt and working to alleviate poverty. On the other side, you have the corrupt officials allegedly involved in the pork barrel scam.
Might I remind those who have forgotten: The real issue here is stealing. This is the topic they have constantly tried to avoid ever since their wrongdoing was exposed. I can't help but shake my head, since the first thing I expected was for them to at least deny the accusations. After all, is that not the natural reaction of anyone who is accused of anything? And yet, in the midst of all their extended counter-accusations hurled against me, not once have I heard them say: “I did not steal.”
One would have hoped that out of respect for those who believed in, and voted, for them, these officials would have fulfilled their sworn duties. At the very least one would have expected them to explain how it happened that the beneficiaries of the NGOs they chose to fund was just a list of board passers seemingly culled from newspapers.
But how can we take their excuses seriously, when after repeated instances of their giving money to the same NGOs, they had not once bothered to check if the funds they allocated actually reached the intended beneficiaries? This state of affairs is indeed difficult, even impossible, to explain away.
And since it is exceedingly difficult to explain, it seems they have taken the advice of an old politician from their camp: If you can’t explain it, muddle it; if you can’t deodorize it, make everyone else stink; if you can’t look good, make everyone look bad. You have heard what they are saying: that we are all the same.
My response: We are not the same. I have never stolen. I am not a thief. I am the one who goes after thieves. We appointed people of unquestionable integrity who are fulfilling their sworn duties. Did we not appoint the Commission on Audit leadership that reviewed the documents leading to the discovery of PDAF abuse? And now, can we not expect a fair and just investigation, because the Ombudsman we appointed walks alongside us along the straight path?
DAP is not pork
Let me make it clear: The Disbursement Allocation Program is not pork barrel.
Of the DAP releases in 2011 and 2012, only nine percent was disbursed for projects suggested by legislators. The DAP is not theft. Theft is illegal. Spending through DAP is clearly allowed by the Constitution and by other laws. DAP is only a name for a process in which government can spend both savings and new and additional revenues. Where did these funds come from? They came from our efforts to stop the connivance of some in bidding for contracts, in padding costs, overpricing, and kickbacks. They came from the proper spending of our budget. They came from the good governance now seen in our GOCCs; just one example of this is the MWSS, an agency once buried in debt, and which now remits dividends to the national government annually.
Savings, above-target collections, and new revenues are the results of good governance. And because of DAP, these funds were allocated to projects that were within the proposed budget and that had a clear benefit to the country.
How does this mechanism work? Simple.
There are some agencies that, for a variety of reasons, are unable to implement their projects right away; on the other hand, there are those that are very efficient in implementing their projects. When projects are stalled, naturally, we will not spend for them. We did not allow these funds to remain dormant. We looked for programs under implementing agencies that had proven themselves to be fast and efficient, and we channeled our savings into these programs—together with the additional revenue of the government. The benefits of these projects reached our countrymen faster and earlier, and we were able to spend the money allocated yearly in our National Budget more prudently and efficiently.
You can decide for yourselves: Is this wrong? When has it ever been wrong to look for a constitutional way to serve our countrymen more effectively? DAP funded Project NOAH, which gives accurate and timely warnings during calamities. Also because of DAP, under the Training-for-Work Scholarship Program of TESDA, almost 150,000 Filipinos were able to study, and no less than 90,000 of them are currently employed. DAP also benefited our Air Force and the police.
Through DAP, we were able to construct infrastructure in Mindanao and other parts of the country, restore the benefits of DepEd employees by paying their GSIS premiums, which had long been unpaid by the government, and fund many other programs and projects that have a real, tangible benefit to Filipinos.
DAP also played an important role in our economic resurgence. According to the World Bank, DAP contributed 1.3 percentage points to our GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2011. Let us compare: isn’t it true that, when they were still in power, we were called the “Sick Man of Asia”? Today, we can choose from a number of new labels: Asia’s fastest growing economy, Rising Tiger, Brightest Park. And let’s include the investment grade status we received from the three most reputable credit ratings agencies in the world. This economic growth—and its positive effects, which have redounded to our countrymen, especially those in the margins of society—this is the product of principled spending, and not of stealing. Money once pocketed by the corrupt is now being used to help our people, particularly the poor.
Let me also take this chance to explain the President’s Social Fund. There are times when we will need funds that can be disbursed quickly to meet sudden needs. For example: we needed funds to provide assistance to the families of soldiers and policemen who fell in the line of duty while responding to the threat posed by the MNLF-Misuari Faction in Zamboanga. There were also those who fell in the course of rescue and relief operations in the wake of Typhoon Sendong. The PSF funded these; without it, without calamity or contingency funds, they would have continued to suffer.
Because these funds were abused in the past, people are saying that perhaps we will abuse them today—even if no one has accused us of stealing or using them in the wrong manner. Some propose to remove them completely. Would this be just? If only it were that simple—but what would we then do in case of natural disasters? Even if we were lucky and Congress was in session, it would take at least four months of debate before Congress can approve the funding we need. If you are in Zamboanga, with a child crying from hunger, and government tells you that it cannot help you just yet, it would need to haggle with Congress first—how would you feel? We have the money, and we have the mechanisms that will ensure this money goes where it’s needed most. Would it be right to deprive our countrymen of the care they direly need?
I repeat: The issue here is theft. I did not steal. Those who have been accused of stealing are those who are sowing confusion; they want to dismantle all that we have worked so hard to achieve on the straight path. We were stolen from, we were deceived—and now we are the ones being asked to explain? I have pursued truth and justice, and have been dismantling the systems that breed the abuse of power—and yet I am the one now being called the “Pork Barrel King”?
This is what I say to them: If you think that this will stop me from going after you, if you think that you can divert the public’s attention, if you think you can get away with stealing from our countrymen—you have sorely underestimated me and the Filipino people. If there still remains some vestige of kindness in your hearts, I hope that you stop acting in self-interest, and instead act to help your fellowmen.
When my father returned home on the twenty-first of August 1983, he had a speech prepared. Filipinos never got to hear it, because he was murdered right on the tarmac. In that speech, he quoted Archibald MacLeish: "How shall freedom be defended? By truth when it is attacked by lies." Now that falsehood and deception are threatening the Filipino’s right to a clean and honest government, the truth stands as our most powerful weapon.
Tonight, I laid out the truth of what has been happening in our nation. I hope that in the coming days, you will talk about this amongst yourselves—in your families, in the groups you belong to, between friends and colleagues, within your communities—and that you can arrive at an understanding and a resolve that aligns with the truth.
My bosses, we have fought so many battles. And I am grateful that no matter how foul the slander and the sabotage, you never let go, you never gave up. Together we proved that there are no tyrants if there are no slaves. Now, those who have abused our trust want to cast us off the course towards the fulfillment of our collective aspirations. I do not believe that you will let this pass. And so long as you are with me, I will continue to stand for our principles.
I have no doubt that, whether or not I am in office, you, our Bosses whose minds and hearts are in the right place, will continue and will finish the fight. This knowledge is the source of my strength and my courage. After all, is it not true that, not too long ago, the system in place was one where the Filipino people had grown tired of dreaming, of fighting back, of doing their part?
Today, there are so many of us who are collectively forging the positive and meaningful changes that are taking place in society. I have every confidence that you will more actively choose to be on the side of what is right, what is truthful, and what is just. This is why I am thankful today, because I know that we will continue our march on the straight path. - Rappler.com
The President delivered this televised address on Wednesday, October 30
Posted by Joe America on January 20, 2014 · 682 Comments
There is no perfect president. Never has been one, never will be one. We can cite the presidents who are generally held in high regard, and those held in low regard.
How do you look at President Aguinaldo, I wonder? He deserves credit for organizing the Philippines as a nation, yet he set the standard for self-serving leadership. Even brutal.
Most Americans hold George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in the highest regard. But don’t dig too deeply into their personal lives or you will find some mighty fine flaws.
That crook U.S. President Nixon is held in high regard for his international dealings with China. The ineffectual “Jimmah” Carter did more after leaving office than he did in office. Habitat for Humanity ring a bell? Ronald Reagan grew in stature as the impacts of his deeds in office rolled through history. The much admired and assassinated JFK was a lustful adulterer. Bill Clinton was a brilliant politician and president who got his mitt in a wringer, so to speak.
How do we weigh President Aquino? How will history judge him?
The critics abound and are undermining his popularity polls. As I mentioned in a recent blog, the Philippines represents a “culture of criticism”. Any flaw in specific act is leveraged to represent a flaw in the entire effort. Or the entire person. President Aquino, an active president, is taking his shots.
Who can live up to that standard in a job as enormously complex as the presidency?
I rather think we should cut any president a little slack. Do you know that term?
From the Urban Dictionary:
“Cut some slack” This phrase is used to request or suggest leniency. To go easy on someone, or to be forgiving.
“Cut him some slack, he’s had a tough day”
“Cut me some slack while I’m learning”
To go easy. To be forgiving. Or to recognize that being relentlessly critical fosters a tear-down mentality. It undermines the nation if the leadership is weakened by criticism that distorts the entire picture.
What is it with this incessant need that Filipinos have – and I suppose we all have to some extent – to win a personal argument and sacrifice a nation in the doing? Critics like to use the term “apologist” for those supporting the President, as if his backers should be ashamed of their view. That is bizarre to me, and anyone who uses the term becomes instantly suspect to me. It is sneaky name-calling and has nothing to do with issues.
And for sure, for sure, I’m not saying that one should hold back from criticizing acts that warrant criticism. I’m saying cut some slack about judging an entire picture – or person – on the basis of one paint stroke.
I respect President Aquino for many reasons, one of which is that he has not bowed to agenda-bound, manipulative criticism. Oh, you can see he gets nettled sometimes. But his most recent observation that critics deserve to be ignored (my paraphrase) is a good one.
Take these critics for example:
Organizations like Bayan Muna simply do not recognize good deeds unless they smack of 1950’s anti-capitalist rhetoric and total destruction of wealth-building mechanisms. They sharpshoot at every opportunity and they are loud out of proportion to their authority.
The mayor of Tacloban. My son would call him a “Whimpy Doodle”. If you listen to that mayor, he is accountable for exactly nothing that went wrong in his city during and after Typhoon Yolanda.
And the newspapers, which intoxicate themselves by thinking that shallow sensationalism is a profound finding and any slander is worth printing.
And the plunderers and crooks who are intent upon making the accuser the guilty party. They are another bunch that knows no accountability. Nor shame.
Those critics are worth ignoring.
I respect President Aquino because he has stuck to a responsible path for four years. He has been serious and sincere and honest.
He has held to a path of integrity.
He demands a lot of others. I respect him for that. He demands a lot from his cabinet, from his staff, from those who serve the public, and from you and me. And you know what, most of the time:
It is not he who fails us.
It is we who fail him.
Is our need for personal justification more important than the Philippines? Have we lost touch with the meaning of sacrifice? I’m not talking about throwing our bodies on a grenade, just allowing others some wiggle room if they take a different decision than we would.
Is that so hard?
I respect President Aquino because he holds his position if he believes it is right. He does not equivocate or slip-slide or flip-flop. If a sultan deserves a swat, he delivers. If the Taiwan President is shrill and intent upon leading his nation to riot, President Aquino remains calm. If a Vice President tries to upstage him, he calls him aside out of public view and gets him back into line rather than playing politics. If China plays its one-way criticism cards, he flips them back, rationally and in the frame of a nation with peace in its Constitution but firmness in its adherence to a law-based resolution of disputes.
A Few Cases
Bus Massacre: The rescue was botched. Follow-up was handled well. I recently blogged on that: “Why Mayor Estrada Is Wrong On Hong Kong”
Gloria Arroyo: He jailed her immediately. No pardon. But let’s criticize the glacial pace of justice.
Appointing Chief Justice Sereno: He had the courage to extract Chief Justice Corona from position then defy convention by selecting a junior justice who will seal the Court to integrity for many years.
Ampatuan Massacre: He immediately confronted and jailed a powerful warlord. Another ding for glacial justice. Arroyo, my bad. JoeAm
The Sultan’s Foray into Malaysia: He was firm. He controlled the outcome without derailing the Mindanao Agreement.
American Ship Reefed in Tabataha: He was calm and firm about restitution.
Taiwan Fisherman’s Shooting: He kept his perspective in the face of the Taiwan President’s undiplomatic rant, and subdued a potentially volatile incident.
China In Philippine Territory: He has taken the high road, one of laws, and has not been provoked by China’s relentless taunts.
Puno and Other Loyalists: He was loyal back. He did not wilt under the pressure of the media sensationalist glare.
Reluctance to Back FOI: I’m not understanding why he does not enthusiastically see FOI as hand-in-hand with good governance. FOI should not have to swim upriver. Ding on the issue.
Zamboanga: He was on scene, firm on not negotiating, and handled VP Binay’s out-of-line stab at a peace agreement quietly.
Negotiations with America on Basing: He insists on staying firmly within Philippine laws.
Typhoon Yolanda and a Confrontational Mayor: He did not accede to the Mayor’s game-playing and refuses to back incompetence.
Take any one of these issues and put yourself at the helm.
Wow. Any one is a potential back-breaker. In the limelight. Dealing with powerful people. Dealing with explosive issues. Every decision, to speak or not to speak, to decide or not to decide, comes under the spotlight of crooks and others who carry about their personal bitterness or agendas. This is not tiddly-winks folks.
These are extraordinarily complex and sensitive matters. Can we find flaws? Of course. But the upshot is that the President has piloted a steady, mature, intelligent, law-based course. His hand has been guided by good thinking, good decisions, firm commitment and diplomatic demeanor.
Right at the center of a culture of criticism. In the spotlight.
I also respect President Aquino because he has personality and character. Off duty, he’s a regular guy, with dates and a computer and probably a well-deserved snooze now and then. He walks like I do, with a hitch or a gimp. He smiles like my Cousin Maude when her girdle is too tight and when he is angry his eyes go dark and sharp.
If he were my brother, I’d be immensely proud of him. If his father and mother were alive today, they’d also be proud of this man, their son, who has grown to fill the big shoes of the presidency with high values and masterful handling of intricate matters.
When critics ridicule him about his sister or gait or cars or dates, it makes the critics very little people indeed. Little of character. And mighty cheap patriots.
He was going nowhere when the people drafted him to the presidency. He agreed to serve. Not to coast, or take advantage for personal gain, or to pull power punches to raise up the family dynasty. He just went to work.
He surprised me, for his executive style, for his clarity of understanding, for his determination, for his calm in the face of pressure. I thought he would be like his senate career, undistinguished. I did not expect he would succeed in putting the Philippines quickly on the path to global respect and economic well-being.
Some thought he should cure poverty and corruption in two years.
He is not a dictator. He does not sit on Yamashita’s treasure. He is not a miracle worker any more than the good Cardinal Tagle is, no matter how hard either of them pray. All the President can do is work and make decisions. I respect him for his resoundingly thoughtful perspectives on matters, and for good decisions under fire.
He is high principled. Dedicated. Smart.
Many seem to find it difficult to be proud of the President. Many seem to favor an upscale wheeler-dealer, an ambitious peddler in favors and favoritism. A guy who would cut deals with extortionists, outside the chain of command, cram an unqualified daughter into the senate and jail security guards for just doing their job.
Well, final accountability rests with the voters and no one else. There is no blaming or excuse-making or finger-pointing that can deny the tabulation.
But I’ll tell you, without question, President Aquino is 110% for the Philippines.
He’s doing what he does for you, and he’s doing it for me. It seems to me he is one of the few people in power who genuinely, honorably, puts the nation’s well-being above self-gain.
I’m inclined to wonder, what do we give in return?
AS DIVIDENDS SURPASS REMITTANCES COLLECTED DURING ARROYO’S TERM
Aquino mulls bonus hike for GOCCs
Kristine Angeli Sabillo
1:05 PM | Wednesday, May 13th, 2015
With dividends from government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs) surpassing that of his predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday called for a review and possible increase in the bonuses of GOCC employees.
“I am directing now Secretary Purisima, and Mr. Villanueva, and also Butch Abad: I want a review of the bonuses that have been accruing all of the people involved in the GOCCs,” he said during the turnover of more than P30 billion worth of GOCC remittances to the national treasury.
He pointed out that while P84.18 billion in remittances were collected during former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term (2001-2009), from 2010 to 2015 alone, his administration was able to raise P131.28 billion.
“In our interest to make you more efficient, baka naman kayo ang nakalimutan. Pinasaya n’yo ‘yung bansa, baka kayo naman ang pinalungkot nang todo-todo (In our interest to make you more efficient, we might have neglected you. You made the country happy but it might have also resulted in you being sad,” he said.
The announcement was applauded by the hundreds of GOCC representatives present at the event.
The President said the review, which seeks to “maximize the benefits” of GOCC employees, should happen in a month’s time.
Earlier in his term, Aquino suspended bonuses and allowances of GOCC executives. Several GOCCs were also abolished.
“There was a GOCC that had a mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, financial assistance,” he recalled. He said it was revealed that the GOCC personnel had been receiving allowances that were more than their regular pay and benefits.
He said part of the reform process was the abolition of some companies that were no longer relevant.
Aquino said that it was through the reforms and new regulations that his administration was able to “professionalize” the GOCCs.
He said GOCC remittances under his administration may most likely reach an amount double that of Arroyo who was in power for nine years.
Aquino urged the GOCCs to further improve their performance.
“Ang pakiusap ko po: Huwag tayong titigil; huwag tayong makontento sa nagawa na; mag-isip pa tayo ng paraan para ba lalong mapaganda ‘yung iiwan nating biyaya, pakinabang, serbisyo sa taumbayan (My appeal: Let us not stop; let us not be content with what we have achieved; let’s think of more ways to further improve benefits and services for the people),” he said, challenging those who attended the annual GOCC Day in Malacañang.