President missed the point

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014


PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino opened up to his “boss” about the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in a statement fully covered by the nation’s media in Malacañang late Monday afternoon. But I think he missed the point—again.

I say “again” because earlier, he also missed the point on calls to let go of Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad. He refused to accept Abad’s offer to resign after Malacañang received flak because of the declaration by the Supreme Court of some portions of the DAP as unconstitutional.

I was among those who thought that since Abad was obviously the one who engineered the DAP, then he needs to own up to his “error”--a “mistake” that has placed the Aquino administration in a bad light. But PNoy noted that accepting Abad’s resignation would
be an admission that he did something wrong, which to him is not the case.

It has now turned out that his claim that his administration did not err on the DAP is not only intended to defend Abad but is rooted in the belief that the High Court was wrong in its ruling on the DAP issue. In his statement, he questioned the SC decision.

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I said he missed the point on this one because what his “boss” expected in that nationwide address was him explaining what DAP is and proving that the funds used under the DAP didn’t end up in the pockets of government officials like what happened to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

That tirade against the SC was a distraction. More so because he seemed to raise the possibility that the executive and the judiciary’s conflicting view on the legality of the DAP could spark a constitutional crisis. His statement ended up sounding defiant instead of being merely explanatory. In short, it didn’t sound good.

Of course, defying the SC ruling was not the intention. Because if that was, then he wouldn’t have announced in the same breath that he will file a motion asking the SC to reconsider its decision. This Malacañang will do even if it is, as Tagalogs would say, “suntok sa buwan,” because the ruling was a unanimous 13-0 with one SC justice inhibiting.

Indeed, it is doubtful if the SC will change its position regarding the portions of the DAP that it considers as unconstitutional. That’s why the tirade was unnecessary.

I thus hope that when the High Court eventually dismisses Malacañang’s motion for reconsideration, the latter would accept it and move on.

The President should instead follow the memorandum issued by the country’s economic managers in the latter part of last year. They called for the termination of the DAP followed by the institution of “budgetary reform measures.”

“All economic and fiscal indicators point to the conclusion that DAP has achieved its objective as a fiscal stimulus measure. We thus recommend, for His Excellency’s consideration, the termination of the DAP, as well as the vigorous implementation of budgetary reform measures to ensure the irreversibility of reforms,” the economic managers said in the memo, as reported by rappler.com.

The economic managers were identified as Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director General Arsenio Balisacan and, surprise, surprise, Abad himself.

What this shows is that the “implementation of budgetary reform measures” and not the continuation of the DAP is what the country’s economic managers prefer. Why the President is instead fighting a quixotic battle on the DAP now is a “puzzlement.”

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 16, 2014.

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