It is not too late

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Monday, July 14, 2014


BRIBERY can be subtle.

It is not always the crude offer of money in return for some kind of favorable treatment. An atmosphere may be created in which it is known that advantages will be conferred on those who conform.

A blight on governance has been the domination of a supine legislative branch by a high-handed Executive. We hope that this may change somewhat by the Supreme Court (SC) decisions that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) is unconstitutional as are some aspects of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Some aspects only.

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The problem has been that some members of the legislative branch have been receiving funds for which, in practice, full accountability can be avoided. This corruption opportunity may be reduced, though not eradicated, by the SC decisions.

Constitutionally, the Ombudsman is empowered to identify and to recommend closing loopholes which make corruption practices easy to implement by the nefarious ones. It is high time that the Ombudsman adopted this Constitutionally-specified role.

The consequences of the recent SC pronouncements will, hopefully, be significant.

A Congress less dependent on unaccountable and unconstitutional funding would, we hope, be more independent and therefore more vigilant about Executive Branch decision-making.

We would like to see more articulate challenges from Congress in relation to the 2015 budget. The next five months will determine whether our Congressmen will be the effective representatives of their constituencies that we would like them to be.

For the past four budgets, the Department of Education has received substantial increases over the previous year. Are we seeing the benefits of the budget increases? I think not. The condition of our school buildings has not improved significantly.

Is Congressman Leonardia satisfied with the condition of Bacolod City National High School? If not, he is entitled, indeed has a duty as an effective representative of the Lone City of Bacolod, to inquire why, despite available funds, the circumstances under which our children try to gain an education are unsatisfactory.

Corruption opportunities arise when there is a lack of clarity as to where funding is to be found. We see this in the education sector. Why is the Department of Education always handing out the begging bowl for school building projects from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Cooperation (Pagcor) and/or the Province when it has sufficient building funds in its own budget? This is an area where the Ombudsman may be expected, as a result of its Constitutional mandate, to pronounce. Greater focus and clarity of funding sources reduce corruption opportunities.

The SC has decided that the Executive went beyond its range of authority in the way in which it distributed public funds. Or, as the media delicately puts it, a pork barrel scam was engendered.

Should there be retribution?

Should PNoy seek the resignation of Budget Secretary Abad as a result of the SC resolution?

More seriously, should PNoy, as some have suggested, be impeached?

No, no, and no.

Abad facilitated a mechanism which, to some extent, encouraged the economy to grow. Not all PDAF and DAP funding was misappropriated by the recipients. The Executive went beyond its range of authority and has been reined in by the SC. Case closed except for a rigorous audit of funds that may have been used improperly.

Suggestions that PNoy should be impeached are nonsensical. The only possible grounds are “betrayal of public trust.” But since there are regular surveys conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) which give PNoy a higher rating than any of his predecessors, there is no evidence that the public believes that he has betrayed them.

It is not too late for PNoy to ensure that his presidency has a favorable place in history. The creation of a society in which the inappropriate ascendancy associated with corruption is reduced is still feasible. The SC has helped him. Now he can help himself by curtailing the abuses within the Executive Branch. The abuses are still prevalent. What is required now is more attention to detail in management decisions.

It can be done.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 14, 2014.

Opinion

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