Banana republic

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By Arnold Alamon

Wrapped in Grey

Friday, June 20, 2014


PUBLIC institutions are run according to codified rules and not through the whim of whoever sits at the helm. The modern theory of the state is built upon this basic principle and the basis of the idea that public servants assume positions of public trust.

It is as if our collective will as a society is enshrined within these laws, and the powers dispensed by officials within these institutions, elected or otherwise, emanate from their fidelity to these laws. The moment they violate these laws, then they violate the public trust which automatically decloaks them of any mantle of legitimacy and associated powers. The adherence to these principles essentially differentiates a modern republic from a banana republic.

The pork barrel scam which mostly took place in the past administration revealed to us that government has been operating as a milking cow for those in power. Now that the details of the Malampaya Fund scam are also out, the fact that we are ruled by crooks enshrined in high places bolsters even more this assertion.

Nine hundred million pesos in revenue from the energy fund was ordered released by the former president for purposes other than it was intended for into the waiting bank accounts of Janet Napoles. It was an orchestrated scheme that involved officials from Malacañang, DAR, and DBM in a brazen scheme of bypassing a slew of codified budgetary rules in order to pocket the whole 900 million peso fund.

Note that not a single project meant to help farmers in the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy and Peping was given assistance. Like vultures feeding upon the carcass of a natural calamity, the cash once released was appropriated by Napoles and government officials in the form of direct payoffs and kickbacks with the whole 243 million pesos going to an unknown government official. If there is such a thing as disaster capitalism, then in this instance we are shown disaster corruption at its most efficient form.

There are a number of features that stand out in both the pork barrel and the Malampaya Fund scam mess. The directive for the release of funds emanated from Malacañang which the implementing agency and DBM then facilitated to go into the bogus projects of Napoles. There are culpable violations of codified budgetary rules in the process made possible by the general directive of no less the President.

That we have been a banana republic for nine years under GMA that has been made clear. But has this brazen practice of violating the enshrined systems of checks and balances of our public institutions been done away with the election of the graft-busting president?

The question of whether we are still a banana republic under the Aquino administration or not is currently being decided by the Supreme Court as it is set to promulgate its decision on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program or the DAP. At the heart of the issue is that by mere executive order, the president abrogated the powers of Congress over the purse of government.

The constitution stipulates that all budgetary appropriations must be approved by Congress but what PNoy did was to instruct the DBM to issue a mere budget circular that allowed them to impound the savings of government institutions and GOCCs midyear to be reallocated according to their whim and caprice. We are talking about P142.23 billion and more of government funds spent by this government illegally from 2011-2013.

Some of these funds reportedly went into the continuation of bogus projects such as the assistance to farming communities facilitated by the Malampaya Fund scam mess. Hundreds of millions were also reportedly spent from the DAP to bankroll CJ Corona’s impeachment at the Senate.

Various quarters have indicated the highest judicial body would be declaring the unconstitutionality of the DAP in effect affirming our status as a banana republic. But this is a wait and see game, the DAP running into the billions of pesos may very well save itself and this government through the convincing power inherent in cold cash bribery.

Some things are clear though at this point. The pork barrel, Malampaya Fund scam, and the Disbursement Acceleration Program are all tools employed by Malacañang to control billions of the people’s money in direct violation of enshrined budgetary laws and the Constitution.

Despite the posturing otherwise, we remain a banana republic ran by a president who has violated the public trust – a point made so eloquently by 19-year old Em Mijares when he shouted during Pnoy’s independence day speech: “Patalsikin ang Pork Barrel King! Walang Pagbabago sa Pilipinas!”

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(Arnold P. Alamon is an Assistant Professor IV, Sociology Department, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 20, 2014.

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