President’s statement-A A +A
Thursday, October 31, 2013
PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino finally spoke at length about the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the President’s Social Fund (PSF). Good? I say it should have been done earlier, that is, before his critics have succeeded in shifting the focus from the misuse by lawmakers of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to his implementation of the DAP and his use of the PSF.
Since Sen. Jinggoy Estrada delivered his privilege speech in late September until the President delivered his own nationally televised speech Wednesday night, many misimpressions and misconceptions about the DAP floated around with only Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Malacañang’s spokespersons doing the correcting and clarifying.
It was immediately after Estrada’s speech that Malacañang mentioned the DAP, an acronym that until then even many lawmakers were clueless about.
Perhaps PNoy was confident that his “Teflon President” tag would carry him through the battering DAP and the PSF received. But the critics weren’t talking about whether he misused his PSF and funds for the DAP. They labeled the PSF as pork barrel and questioned the legality of the DAP and, presto, they found a reason to label him as “pork barrel king.”
The label is unfair, of course, because it gives the impression that he is the biggest crook of all. But in this age where perception seemingly becomes fact by repetition, the label is all that matters to his critics. With that, they have punctured his Mr. Clean image and succeeded in dragging his popularity rating down.
I agree with PNoy. The real issue is the misuse of the pork barrel, which means that the focus should be on those who stole from public coffers and not on the President.
Overly focusing on the DAP and the PSF could weaken the effort to prosecute those who pocketed their pork.
Here’s an example:
In October, the militant farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) made a show of filing a complaint for plunder with the Office of the Ombudsman against PNoy, some Cabinet members and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. The group was obviously emboldened to do so because in October the focus of the flogging was the President because of the DAP.
While the President was included in the complaint, lawmakers who facilitated the release of the PDAF through the Department of Agriculture to Napoles’s bogus NGOs were neither charged nor mentioned in the complaint.
The filing of the complaint may be a mere p.r. stunt but it showed how overly focusing on the President, who has not been shown to have pocketed pork barrel money, could be used by the actual grafters to muddle the issue and weaken the case against them.
But while I agree with the President that the real issue is the misuse of the pork barrel, I won’t go with him on his hesitance to deprive grafters of the mechanism they can use to steal public funds.
He should abolish the pork barrel pronto and should not even allow lawmakers to identify projects as this still would give them a chance to get commissions, euphemistically called SOP (standard operating procedure).
Instead, his administration should devise a mechanism that would ensure that important projects and programs (like scholarships) previously financed by lawmakers’ pork would still get funding. As for the PSF and the DAP, additional controls should be put in place to ensure that future presidents won’t end up misusing them.
If he does that, I am sure his popularity rating will soar again.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 01, 2013.