Panelo as spokesman: Bad signal for seekers of truth, justice

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s next President, has appointed defense lawyer Salvador Panelo as his spokesman.

Presidential transition teams usually vet nominees. Maybe, Duterte, who got Panelo to represent him during the public lynching stage-managed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes, feels he knows the lawyer well enough to forego of the vetting process.

Mr. Duterte chose wrong. Journalists and media groups are telling him so. As have the families of the media victims in the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre.


“Hindi ako komportable. Hindi tama (I am not comfortable. This is not right),” said Mary Grace Morales on behalf of other families of our fallen colleagues.

“Parang alam na namin saan patungo ang kaso (We know where the case is headed),” Morales, whose husband Rosell, circulation manager of the community paper, News Focus, died in the massacre, said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) quoted Morales as saying, “Kung sya (Panelo) na talaga, hindi na ako aasa na may mangyayari pa sa kaso na ito (If he is really appointed, I will no longer hope for progress in this case),” she added.

Duterte campaigned on the promise to rid the Philippines of criminals and abusive government officials. Few clans are more abusive than the Ampatuans of Maguindanao.


Andal Ampatuan, Jr., a principal suspect in the Maguindanao Massacre. Photo from the AsianCorrespondent

Panelo was a defense lawyer for the Ampatuan massacre principals. He withdrew as counsel for Andal Ampatuan Jr. in December last year.

The NUJP expressed serious misgivings on his appointment as spokesman. It noted the “possible implications on the trial of those accused of what is acknowledged as the single deadliest attack on the press in history and one of the worst incidents of electoral violence in the country.”

I am a member of the NUJP, one of its former chairpersons. While the statement was right on most points, a tougher call is in order.

Mayor Duterte must rethink his appointment of Panelo

paneloDo you see this quote, sir?


More than 50 people died, most of them hapless journalists. It was a MASSACRE of civilians.

Unarmed civilians, many of them women, one of them a lawyer who worked with the poor. A massacre, sir. The single, most vicious attack on journalists ever, worldwide. And it happened in your beloved Mindanao.


One can be a defense lawyer and protect suspects’ rights.

It is another thing to peddle the lies of killers, the worst of murderers.

Panelo described the charges as fabricated.

F A B R I C A T E D.

That speaks of his affinity to truth — an ocean separates him and truth.

This is the man who will be your spokesman?

There are, what… 6,000 positions? Put him somewhere where his presence does not taint the search for justice.

Other media groups have also raised opposition to Panelo’s appointment.

Philippines Graphic editor in chief, Joel Pablo Salud said:

I can already see where the Ampatuan case will be going with your choice, Mr. President, of a spokesperson. While I believe and will fight for people’s rights to have their day in court, lies like this one do not help the cause of justice. I suggest you find someone else to stand as your voice to the people because by this statement alone, this man could endanger your presidency even before it starts.

National Press Club president Paul Gutierrez said it would be difficult for journalists to work with Panelo.

“Members of the press would find it hard to interact, and work with, a press secretary whose main client are the suspects in the wholesale murder of the members of the press that has outraged the entire world,” Gutierrez said.

“We understand certain debts owed during the election season need to be paid, but for a candidate who won overwhelmingly on a promise that change is coming, this is not the refreshing wind of change our clients sorely need now,” said Romel Regalado Bagares, Executive Director,Center for International Law.

“The choice is uninspired, to say the least. But it is clear it does not really understand the gravity of what happened on Nov. 23, 2009 on a hill in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Sadly, it is a choice that does attack not impunity decisively but rather, perpetuates it,” the lawyer and journalist said.





Hitler… Holocaust lines? DO YOU REMEMBER THEM, MR. PRESIDENT?

Dear President Aquino,
I oppose the candidacy of Rodrigo Duterte because of his views — and actions — that are inimical to human rights. I oppose the candidacy of the dictator’s son, who still pines for the bloody paradise of his father.

“If you allow them to oppress your fellow man and you do not speak up, you will be the next one to be oppressed.”

Aquino repeated the famous quotes of Martin Niemoller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken critic of Hitler and spent the last years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

“First they came for the communists, but I did not speak out because I was not a communist… finally they came for me and there was no one left to speak up for me.”

Let me jog your memory, Mr. President. What did your government do while soldiers and para-military forces hounded Lumad to death in Mindanao?

When the Lumad sought sanctuary in Davao, your Liberal Party colleague tried to force their “rescue”.
‘Saving the Lumad’ Cops summoned to Davao City by the Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Indigenous Peoples to “rescue” lumad fleeing military abuses in their mountain communities injured 15 of the displaced folk and destroyed a number of temporary shelters. (Photo by Karlo Manlupig)
Your Armed Forces earned a sharp dressing down from a UN expert when they tried to manipulate his words and the truth (yes, pretty much Goebbels-style, right?)
You snubbed the Lumad when they came to the capital to call attention to their plight.
Yet your allies in Congress and your AFP brass — and your national security office in Malacanang — hosted pet datus as they preached their belief that anyone with “alien” ideology was fair game for murder.
Your hand-picked successor Mar Roxas ignored entreaties by a governor from your own party. Indeed, when a refugee shared his plight, Mr. Roxas urged him to deliver himself unto the AFP — the very same folks who’d sent him scrambling for safety.


Nobody came to the aid of 15-year old Manobo boy from Sitio Mando, Barangay Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon.
He didn’t just hear of the murders of his kin, Mr. President. He actually begged soldiers to spare their lives, appealing that his father, brothers and cousins be jailed if, indeed, they had done anything wrong. His father was 70 and blind; his brothers 20 and 19 years old. One of his cousins was 13 years old; the other was 17.
He begged the soldiers, Mr. President. And they shot father, brothers and cousins, one by one.
Remember them, Sir?
Lumad and supporters hold candlelight rites for Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo and 57 other Lumad murdered under the Aquino administration. (Photo by Kilab Multimedia)
On September 1, in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao Sur, the head teacher of a lumad alternative school was found murdered.
Emerito Samarca’s students at the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) discovered his body. The folk at Diatagon had no access to education until private efforts established Alcadev for Manobo, Banwaon, Higanon, Talaandig and Mamanwa youth.
AlcadevYou spurned Alcadev’s students when they were in town late 2014 to protest the militarization of their schools.
A year later, these same children saw Dionel Campos and his cousin Belio Sinzo murdered by paramilitary troops.
The three gentlemen’s crime — providing a safe space for the education of children neglected by government.
No one came to help the hapless Lumad, Mr. President. No one from your government. It took private citizens and people’s organizations and churches to come to their aid.
And don’t you talk of coming to the aid of people suspected of being communists.
There have been more than 300 cases of extra-judicial killings under your administration. Eighty of these involved indigenous people or tribal groups. Almost always, people your government suspects of being communist.
You couldn’t even be bothered over the death of hungry farmers, Mr. President. Spare us your warnings.
KILAB MARCH 31 Screen Shot
We know about tyrants and what they can do to the country.
You speaking on our behalf isn’t just silly and thoughtless as you often are. It is criminal, because it seeks to use legitimate fears to cover-up your government’s attrocities.
Your government kills teachers and children, Mr. President. WE WILL NOT FORGET.

House bungles on PPP; why they didn’t dare push it on last day of session

The better title would be, “Drive Out The Clowns” — the real clowns.


We all saw the news on Monday night.

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the proposed institutionalization of the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme. 

It was one of the bills approved by the Lower House during its plenary session Monday.

The bill was approved with a vote of 126 in favor and eight against.

Bugles and drum rolls, right? Public-private partnerships, after all, rank high on President Benigno Aquino III’s list of priorities.

Looks like the hosanna chorus was premature.

The House on Tuesday had to recall plenary approval on third reading of the much ballyhooed measure. (Yes, I noticed very few media outfits came out with this update.)

Why? Because Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares did his homework.

Colmenares takes the Constitution seriously. In his sweet, sing-song, Ilonggo-accented Tagalog, he moved to recall the third reading vote on HB 6631.

Colmenares pointed out that the third reading approval  violated Section 28, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.

What does the Constitution say?

SECTION 28. (1) The rule of taxation shall be uniform and equitable. The Congress shall evolve a progressive system of taxation.

(2) The Congress may, by law, authorize the President to fix within specified limits, and subject to such limitations and restrictions as it may impose, tariff rates, import and export quotas, tonnage and wharfage dues, and other duties or imposts within the framework of the national development program of the Government.

(3) Charitable institutions, churches and parsonages or convents appurtenant thereto, mosques, non-profit cemeteries, and all lands, buildings, and improvements, actually, directly, and exclusively used for religious, charitable, or educational purposes shall be exempt from taxation.

(4) No law granting any tax exemption shall be passed without the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.

Colemares voted against the bill, one of only eight nays.

One of his reasons: “It grants tax exemptions and deprives both the national government and LGUs of taxes, fees, and charges. This will deprive the people of accessible public service and take away billions in public funds from our people’s needs.”

He checked the Monday rolls. Only 136 congressmen voted to pass the measure.

The House of Representatives has a membership of 291. For constitutional fealty, HB 6631 needs 146 members voting on third and final reading.

Gonzales say other legislators quickly realised the #FighterNgBayan was right. He did not contest. And so the House recalled approval Tuesday night.

They were going to push for it again Wednesday night. Elections are coming; some guys can’t afford a tantrum by that petulant guy in Malacanang.

Congressional staff say Gonzales tried to get Colmenares to push his SSS-pension hike veto override AFTER they rectified the results of their carelessness and negligence.

They probably thought Colmenares was the kind of fool their subalterns are. Of course, he’s not. As notes, news website Interaksyon’s sweet, back-handed compliment:

Funny how the President’s defenders now accuse Colmenares of “playing politics”, as if a socialist who actually knows how to work in a House dominated by the bourgeoisie is more frightening than a President who ignores what is happening in his co-equal branches of government until a paper with a deadline lands on his notoriously clean desk.

Colmenares, of course, said, nyet.

  • The lard-bloated lapdogs of Mr. Aquino found themselves facing a nightmare:
  • It looked like the 57 signatures on Colmenares’ override document were just for starters;
  • A little bird from a top House leader’s office told me that some phone calls to representatives got nervous responses (there was a gallery  filled with what Quezon City 3rd district Rep. Bolet Banal notes were elderly people “fooled” (nauto) by the militant legislator.


With a quorum, how could  solons who voted for the SSS bill explain their refusal to override the veto? By claiming they were irresponsible enough to sleep walk through three years of hearings? By claiming they were hypnotised into voting?

SSS voters

When Speaker Feliciano Belmonte says they didn’t want to embarrass the President (who deserves it, as the Interaksyon editorial clearly shows), the unspoken half of his thought was:

President Benigno Aquino III and suspended (and now resigned) national police chief Alan Purisima go a long way back.

They didn’t want the public to see how cavalierly they take their tasks given the gazillions we contribute for their upkeep. They didn’t want the public to be reminded that this is a President who can’t exercise coherent leadership, especially where and when it counts. They didm’t want yet another example of the right hand going opposite the left hand — remember #Mamasapano?

The truth was simple. Aside from their fear of losing the perks of being presidential pets, they couldn’t let the nation’s last memories of the 16th Congress be that of buffoons.

So they sidelined the PPP bill just to cover that up. They cut off the microphone as Colmenares spoke.

That is why there was silence from Malacanang the day after.

When Belmonte, Gonzales and Banal (who voted for Colmenares’ bill and whose senior citizen father was one of those who spoke on behalf of the bill) rant and rave about Colmenares’ alleged politicking, they’re desperately trying to convince people that he’s like them. Tough luck.

Now we know who’re the real clowns and fools. One mistake following the other, one solution dragging them deeper into the muck.

 As Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda College Graduate School of Law, said the  House could pay for forcing session adjournment just to avoid tackling important unfinished business.

He pointed out:

Under Sections 15 and 16, Article 6 of the Constitution, Congress sessions are predetermined and cannot be adjourned arbitrarily, especially in a bid to avoid taking up important measures.

House leaders may be charged with dereliction of duty before the Office of the Ombudsman, he warned. Of course, they can always contest this. But that would mean another nightmare and, certainly, embarrass the President (and his handpicked successor who is, after all, among the Liberal Party bosses).


Belmonte says they’ll ram it through when they next convene after the elections.

Guess what? There are now 62 signatories to the override resolution. And more representatives are calling to add to say they’ll be signing, too.

One of those additions told me there are some things you cannot swallow. Public displays of amazing stupidity for one. And public displays of dishonour.

As for Banal, he may have caused his dad a helluva number of votes. Guess which party-list many senior citizens will be voting for?

And that’s how cookies crumble in the Neverland we call Congress.



WHO OWNS THAT BACKHOE? (Revisiting the Ampatuan Massacre)

Who doesn’t?

Only those who did not kowtow, did not pander, did not channel funds and arms to the Ampatuans of Maguindanao.

Only those who refused to keep silent as the clan harassed and burned and killed to wrest control of lands to annex for their kingdom.

Only those who did not bargain away people’s lives and rights for a slot in command tickets come election time.

Photo from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Photo from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

We must grieve and call for justice on behalf of 58 persons retrieved from under Maguindanao’s soil. We must never forget the carnage of November 23, 2009.

Yet neither should we overlook the precedents and the acts of commission and omission that built the perfect scenario for the Ampatuan massacre.

Context is everything. Until we address the roots of the massacre, we will keep on counting the lives the sacrificed on the altar of greed and power.

THIS WHAT IMPUNITY IS ALL ABOUT – “too much power, too little accountability”.

AMPATUAN NEWThe Ampatuan massacre did not spring from a vacuum. The weak Philippine state has long provided rich soil for the seeds of carnage. A day after the massacre, I retrieved a 2007 interview of then Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan by MindaNews’ Carol Arguillas.

Here is Ampatuan unfiltered:

“Actually, Maguindanao province is an extension of the home province of Her Excellency, PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) which is Pampanga. Here in Maguindanao, considering that we have 20 mayors unopposed, these 20 mayors are allies of the administration, even those areas with opponents – Pagalungan and Talitay – the opponents are all allies of the administration.”

Arguillas’ interview was largely about the Ampatuan clan’s all-out support for Mrs. Arroyo in the 2007 elections. Following the 2009 massacre — around the time politicians were registering as contenders for the 2010 polls — the country woke up to find just what underpinned this support:

  • Free flow of arms and ammunition from the Armed Forces of the Philippines
  • Governance dictated by only a few privileged persons
  • Governance implemented according to the needs of these privileged persons
  • The resulting absence of government services – from courts to health to education
  • Years of public monies being diverted into the pockets of local warlords – who then pay back the favor by mowing down anyone opposed to their patrons
AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

Around a hundred men implemented that act of mayhem, which also holds the record for the world’s deadliest attack on journalists. It was no ordinary band of “bandits”. The perpetrators were led Shariff Aguak Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and a senior police office, Sr. Inspector Dicay. They brought practically the entire security apparatus of Shariff Aguak and, presumably, Ampatuan town.  This was a hydra — and its creator wasn’t just then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Ampatuan monster was birthed by a cabal of powerful political and economic clans who had for years paid homage to warlords, nurtured them, allowed them to raid the state treasury and turned a blind eye to mounting reports of rights violations, and neglect of the most basic of government services.

An Inquirer.Net report states:

“The Ampatuans and Mangudadatus have reigned in Maguindanao politics since 1986 when the revolutionary government of then President Corazon Aquino appointed officers-in-charge to local elective posts of mayors, municipal, provincial and village legislators, as well as governors and their deputies.

The patriarchs of both clans— Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Datu Pua Mangudadatu —were appointed mayors of their respective municipalities, Maganoy (now Shariff Aguak) and Buluan, Maguindanao.

The two men never lost an election and their children have also entered politics and emerged winners, too. Many saw their political careers thrive in the positions they have held, among them, Governor Zaldy Uy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and incumbent Buluan town Vice-Mayor Esmael Toto Mangudadatu, who is now said to be running for Maguindanao governor, the post to be left by Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. to his son, Andal Jr.”

A 2008 report of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism notes that the Ampatuans consolidated power since 2001.

The 1987 Constitution bans private armed groups. In July 2006, however, the Arroyo administration issued Executive Order 546, allowing local officials and the PNP to deputize barangay tanods as “force multipliers” in the fight against insurgents. In practice, the EO allows local officials to convert their private armed groups into legal entities with a fancy name: civilian volunteer organizations (CVO).

That probably sounds familiar to many Filipinos across the country. Even today, as the 2016 election fever starts, we hear about “force multipliers”. We also have continuing reports of political murders, including those targeting journalists, judges, activists and lawyers.

No Accountability

Slide1The funds that underwrote the Ampatuan empire belonged to the people. These funds were stolen systematically through the years.

It was easy to divert the money because close to a quarter of the Philippine national budget has always been available for leaders to dispense according to their whims.

It was easy to divert because in the filthy bed of pigs that normally goes by the name of Congress, members neglect oversight tasks in return for favors that allow them to perpetuate power through generations of entitled individuals.

It was easy to divert because when people are poor and hungry and they face the barrels of guns, they are easily cowed. So instead of fighting for their due, they accept crumbs from the lords’ tables.

The weak cannot be faulted for propping up the mighty. Not when their “betters” — those who think they know better – are equally guilty of sacrificing principles for political exigencies.

The coerced can be forgiven their meekness. Those who play with the levers of power, in the hope that they can influence the outcome of events, come out with splatters of blood in their hands.

You see, the Ampatuan massacre isn’t just about one town, one province, one region. It is not the only massacre that highlights the seed of carnage. Only when those who can stand between the guns and the cowed populace speak out and walk their talk can we even begin to hope to rid the national soil of the toxins of impunity.

PDAF ‘dead’? Well, gov’t has raised the zombie

MONSTER PIG FINALIt probably shouldn’t surprise us, given the government’s response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). For all it’s avowals about the death of pork, the Philippine government is trying its darn best to sustain patronage politics in this country. President Benigno Aquino III himself announced the death of PDAF. Well then, what’s doing the rounds of social media is the pork zombie. Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio released a recording of a recent meeting between legislators and Health Undersecretary Janet Garin, a former member of the House of Representatives. Audio and transcript show that the country’s leaders have been focused on resurrecting the infamous system that gave rise to the Napoles scandal.

The Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). That’s the system where legislators are given a lump sum (at least P70 million for members of the House of Representatives and P200 million for senators), which they are then free to endorse to any beneficiary worthy of their tender mercies. PDAF is found in the General Appropriations Act. The SC, however, found it unconstitutional for allowing legislators to “intervene, assume or participate” in post-enactment stages of the budget execution. The powers granted legislators under the PDAF include “project identification, modification and revision of project identification, fund release and/or fund realignment, unrelated to the power of congressional oversight.” Not too long ago, Budget Secretary Abad was urging reform-minded groups to target their fire on legislators and PDAF. We now know, of course, that Abad then crafted DAP — which also went to legislators and, incidentally, Napoles NGOs. Now the  recordings leaked by  Tinio shows the executive department bending way, way backwards to allow legislators a death grip on their pork privileges. The transcript of that meeting also shows why politicians (and their patrons) see pork as essential to their survival.

Patients share a bed at congested Fabella Hospital. The poor continue to need to plead with legislators to get health aid.
Patients share a bed at congested Fabella Hospital. The poor continue to need to plead with legislators to get health aid.

It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Garin as she seeks to appease legislators. The entire point of the meeting was to reassure them that, yes, they still are in control of their PDAF. They still have the power to dictate who gets to benefit from the funds they have allotted for health services. (Even when they, by order of the Supreme Court, should have given up this power.) Garin explains that a new order covering the medical assistance program (clearly PDAF as hidden in the DOH budget) has simplified requirements. Indeed, there is only one requirement to get benefits reserved for “indigent” patients — the benevolent nod of your representative. Officially, the endorsement should come from MAP officials.

“And who are the MAP officials? Kayo yan, these are the Congressmen or your designated personnel,” says Garin.

The SC  ordered that all unused PDAF monies should revert to the general fund and not be spent in any way that replicates the practices ruled as unconstitutional. Here’s what the Department of Health did instead:

“So the decision of the Department is to do away with all walk-in patients because in the first place it was made clear to us that these funds are not DOH funds but are actually funds of Congressmen who are there to assist their constituents.”

Garin apologizes for instances when DOH personnel told patients that there are no legislators’ funds — which was the true state of affairs until they swept back ‘reforms’. And she has a solution for any problems that may arise.

“if in case nagpadala kayo ng pasyente, pagkapadala ninyo ng pasyente sinabi ay wala po ditong pondo yung opisina ninyo …  we have a directory that will be given to you and that will be e-mailed to all your offices. In that directory, there are two persons in-charge of all hospitals, so makikita ninyo dun sa directory, andidito yung mga pangalan ng mga hospitals and then kung sino yung contact person na tatawagan ninyo. So for any problem, you immediately call, text or e-mail the persons in-charge of that hospital and automatically they will issue

To make sure that no pesky local government unit claims legislators’ pork, the DOH says  it will pay only for patients covered by a “guarantee letter” from legislators or their designated representatives.

Public service: Not an question of justice but of tribal strength,
Public service: Not an question of justice but of tribal strength,

The government has a good, noble reason for going around the SC decision: “You (legislators) know best and you know better sino ang nanganagilangan ng tulong sa distrito ninyo, Garin declares. And just like that, they’ve upended the checks and balances in governance. Garin makes the Executive Department seem clueless on matters of poverty. And if you follow her words to their logical conclusion, you should be very, very scared — because this supposedly clueless executive branch has been disbursing billions of pesos to people they have surveyed and verified as poor! According to Senate President Franklin Drilon, the government’s conditional cash transfer program or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program was alloted P62.6 billion in the 2014 budget and stands to get P64.7 billion next year. The program, which is administered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has reportedly given funds to 4.3 million poor families. It is “conditional” because beneficiaries are supported to a) keep their children in school and b) ensure that they get proper government medical care, including regular vaccinations against infectious diseases. This means at least two agencies, the DOH included, keeps track of these poor people. So how does one square this with the claim that only legislators know who needs aid in their districts? If one were truly concerned with red-tape, then one could have ordered the local DSWD units to provide government hospitals of a list of indigents for verification of status. After all, the CCT is given regularly. But no, poor people have to get the blessings of legislators before they will be given the time of day. We’ve heard legislators moan and threaten about the sudden cut in health aid and scholarships because public funds have vanished. But there ARE public funds. The legislators just don’t want these out of their hands. And it is Garin herself who tells us why.

“We also understand na yung guarantee letter na unang nirelease, medyo yung format, I mean it’s good, it’s okay. Unfortunately the format creates a lot of questions kasi nga parang it’s, it’s an indigency program of the DOH. Nawawalan ngayon ng, let’s admit it the political points in, in the case of the office requesting it kasi ang nakapirma dun is Asec. Lagajid and it was placed there na hindi pwedeng i-honor pag Saturday and Sunday. “

That’s the truth. In fact, Garin adds some details tas she tries to plug any problems that could inconvenience legislators: “Our initial recommendation was actually, we’ll send the guarantee letters then bayaran agad para walang, walang tagal, walang maraming requirements kasi the hospital structure has a lot of requirements for indigency program natutu nga kasi diyan sila eh. So to solve that, yun yung prinopose namin.” (So much for reform measures to staunch corruption.)

“But then there were others naman we’re very comfortable with outright downloading so sabi namin okay naman yun. For those na wala kayong downloaded na pondo, actually it’s easier, better and more flexible kasi by the time na nagpalit ka ng isip, kunyare party-list congressman ka, dito ka naglagay ng pondo, then mayroon din dun kasamahan ninyo, kaibigan ninyo tumatakbo din, you want to concentrate on this area, so very flexible, all you have to do is look at our directory tell the person in charge you want a guarantee letter immediately to this hospital, this patient, ipadala agad. So hindi na yung na-download na dun, babawiin mo ulit, ire-realign mo.”

Cinderella should be so lucky! Everybody screams about patronage politics in this country. Where do you think the money for that comes from? There are two very good reasons to get rid of pork:

  • Government, or its executive branch, is mandated to ensure the efficient and rational delivery of basis services to the people, by way of proposing and then implementing the budget;
  • We know that elected officials, especially legislators, channel pork to reward their supporters or lure in new ones.

Through this miasma of discretionary power runs the infamous “weather-weather lang” character of Philippine governance. This rot is what makes decisions of both elected and voters a matter of tribal strength rather than of justice or efficiency. We scream against patronage politics and yet we shrug off the reality of millions of poor Filipinos having to throw themselves at the mercy of politicians to get what is theirs by right under the Constitution. We sneer at the poor about electing the governments they deserve. We sneer and then dance with the pigs we call friends.


MONSTER PIG FINALOo, Juana, kailangan mo pa ding lumuhod kay Kong.

Nang nilabas ng Korte Suprema ang desisyon na nagsasabing unconstitutional ang Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), sinabi ng gobyerno ni Pangulong Benigno Simeon Aquino III na patay na ang pork.

Sinabi din kasi ng Korte Suprema na PERMANENTE ang desisyon. Ang hindi pa nagagastos na PDAF ay dapat bumalik sa pangkalahatang pondo ng bayan.

Kahit nitong Hulyo lang, inulit ng mga kaalyado ni Pangulong Aquino na patay na ang pork barrel, kaya di na daw kailangan ng isang batas mula sa taumbayan — o People’s Initiative.

Ito ang sinabi ni Senate President Franklin Drilon:

“There’s no necessity for it. The SC has declared it unconstitutional and thus the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) cannot be restored in the 2015 or future budgets and the Senate has deleted it in 2014.”

Pero itong transcript ng isang miting sa pagitan ni Health Undersecretary Garin (dating mambabatas) at mga myembro ng Kongreso, ay nagpapakita lamang na hindi sumunod ang  gobyerno sa utos ng Korte Suprema. .Tatalakayin ko ito pagkatapos malahad ang desisyon ng SC. ( Pwede din kayong makining dito )

Bakit nga ba pinagbawal ng SC ang PDAF? Sinabi nito na

  • May kapangyarihan ang mga mambabatas na pumasa ng budget pero di na dapat sumawsaw pa sa kung saan ito mapunta pagkatapos ng pag-pasa ng batas.
  • Ang Executive Department na ang dapat na mag-patupad ng budget.
  • Hindi pwedeng makialam ang mga taga-Kongreso kung sino ang makakakuha ng pondo, proyekto or programa, dahil dapat nakasaad na ito sa budget.

Heto ang desisyon ng SC:

“In view of the constitutional violations discussed in this Decision, the Court hereby declares as UNCONSTITUTIONAL: (a) the entire 2013 PDAF Article; (b) all legal provisions of past and present Congressional Pork Barrel Laws, such as the previous PDAF and CDF Articles and the various Congressional Insertions, which authorize/d legislators—whether individually or collectively organized into committees—to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various post-enactment stages of the budget execution, such as but not limited to the areas of project identification, modification and revision of project identification, fund release and/or fund realignment, unrelated to the power of congressional oversight; (c) all legal provisions of past and present Congressional Pork Barrel laws, such as the previous PDAF and CDF Articles and the various Congressional Insertions, which confer/red personal, lump-sum allocations to legislators from which they are able to fund specific projects which they themselves determine; (d) all informal practices of similar import and effect, which the Court similarly deems to be acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of discretion; and (e) the phrases (1) “and for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President” under Section 8 of Presidential Decree No. 910 and (2) “to finance the priority infrastructure development projects” under Section 12 of PD 1869, as amended by PD 1993, for both failing the sufficient standard test in violation of the principle of non-delegability of legislative power.”

Noon, sinabi ni Budget Secretary Abad sa mga grupong kontra-pork na dapat matigil ang poder ng Kongreso na maghimasok sa pag-gamit ng pondo pagnapasa ang batas.

Alam natin na hindi nila tinupad ito kasi namudmod din sila nga pera sa mga mambabatas sa ilalim ng Disbursement Acceleration Fund (DAP).

Sa transcript ng miting nina Usec Garin at mga mambabatas, makikita ang totoong dahilan kung bakit kapit tuko sa PDAF ang mga pulitiko.

Nangandarapa makipag-alegro si Usec Garin sa mga yamot na mambabatas. Lahat ginawa na ng DOH para mahawakan pa din ng mga pulitiko ang kapangyarihan na pumili ng mga mabibiyayaan ng serbisyong publiko. Sila lamang ang pipili kung sino ang “indigent” o mahirap.

Sa ilalim ng bagong administrative order ng DOH, ang kailangan para sa makapasok sa medical assistance program (MAP) ay rekomendasyon mula sa MAP officials.

Ang sabi ni Garin: “And who are the MAP officials? Kayo yan, these are the Congressmen or your designated personnel.” 

Hindi yan trabaho ng mambabatas. Trabaho yan ng Executive Branch. At sapat na dapat ang kakayahan ng Executive Branch na kumilala sa mga mahihirap na Pilipino.

Mga ilan sa 5, 360 families saTagum City na kasali sa conditional cash transfer program o Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).--
Mga ilan sa 5, 360 families saTagum City na kasali sa conditional cash transfer program o Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).–

Nandyan ang Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program na binigyan ng P62.6 billion sa 2014, na tataas sa P64.7-billion sa 2015.

Ang CCT ay nagbibigay ng allowance sa 4.3 million na mahihirap na pamilya basta tumupad sila sa ilang kondisyon — ang pag-sigurado na mag-aral ang mga anak, at ang paninigurado din na nabibigyan sila ng regular na check-up, lalo na ang mabakunahan laban sa mga nakakahawang sakit.

Paanong di malalaman ng DOH at mga lokal na gobyerno kung sino ang mahihirap eh may listahan na nga sila ng nasa ilalim ng CCT?

Kung tunay na binalik ang PDAF sa general funds, bakit meron pang ma-download na funds na ang kongresista lamang ang makakapagsabi kung saan ito mapupunta?

Nag-sorry pa si Garin sa pagsabi ng mga ospital na walang pondo ang mambabatas doon — samantala tama naman yun, kasi dapat nasa DOH na at local government health units ang pondo.

Pero hindi, inangkin pa din ng mga mambabatas ang pondong ito at pinagbigyan naman ng DOH. Kailangan ng guarantee letter mula sa mambabatas bago ka matulungan sa ospital.

So if your funds are already downloaded in the DOH hospitals. So I repeat unang-una po downloading of funds to DOH Hospitals including retained hospitals that includes the regional medical centers and specialty hospitals if your office has funds there, you can transact directly with them yung point person nandudun, second, if in case nagpadala kayo ng pasyente, pagkapadala ninyo ng pasyente sinabi ay wala po ditong pondo yung opisina ninyo …  we have a directory that will be given to you and that will be e-mailed to all your offices. In that directory, there are two persons in-charge of all hospitals, so makikita ninyo dun sa directory, andidito yung mga pangalan ng mga hospitals and then kung sino yung contact person na tatawagan ninyo. So for any problem, you immediately call, text or e-mail the persons in-charge of that hospital and automatically they will issue a guarantee letter direct to your office and direct to the hospital.”

Mga nagproprotesta na biktima ng Yolanda. Kailangan bang lumuhod sa mambababatas para lang makakuha ng ayuda mula sa gobyerno? Litrato ng Tudla Productions
Mga nagproprotesta na biktima ng Yolanda. Kailangan bang lumuhod sa mambababatas para lang makakuha ng ayuda mula sa gobyerno? Litrato ng Tudla Productions

Ilang beses na nating narinig ang mga mambabatas na nagdabog pagkatapos bumaba ang SC ng desistyon sa PDAF?

Eh di wala na kayong pondo sa ospital, sabi nila. Wala nang skolarship. 

Eh meron ngang pondo!

Pero, heto, inamin na din ni Garin na kaya ayaw ng mga mambabatas ng tuwid na sistema ay dahil gusto nilang mag-epal at mangandalakan na sila at sila lang ang makakapagbigay ng tulong sa mahihirap.

At pinagbigyan naman sila ng gobyerno.

“We also understand na yung guarantee letter na unang nirelease, medyo yung format, I mean it’s good, it’s okay. Unfortunately the format creates a lot of questions kasi nga parang it’s, it’s an indigency program of the DOH. Nawawalan ngayon ng, let’s admit it the political points in, in the case of the office requesting it kasi ang nakapirma dun is Asec. Lagajid and it was placed there na hindi pwedeng i-honor pag Saturday and Sunday. “

(Sa Tagalog: “Nauunawaan namin na yung unang format ng guarantee letter ay nagbibigay ng katanungan, kasi nga programa siya ng DOH para sa mahihirap. Aminin natin, na dito nawawalan ng political points ang mambabatas dahil ang nakapirma ay si Asec …)

Kahit sa mga LGU hospitals, ang mambabatas pa din ang wagas.

Hindi magagamit ng lokal na gobyerno ang “pork” nila. Yan ang kahalagahan ng guarantee letter — magbabayad ang DOH kung nakapirma lang si Kong o ang representante niya.

“…our assurance is that, hindi naman siya magagamit ng governor kasi first, we are bound by COA rules not to download kung wala kaming payables. So kung may guarantee letter galing sa inyo, yan po ang babayaran ng Department of Health.”

Ang mas nakakagalit, sinabi pa ni Garin:

“So the decision of the Department is to do away with all walk-in patients because in the first place it was made clear to us that these funds are not DOH funds but are actually funds of Congressmen who are there to assist their constituents. ” (Hindi na tatanggap ng walk-in na pasyente kasi sinabi na sa amin na ang pondo ay hindi para sa DOH kundi pondo ng mambabatas para sa kanilang tutulungan.)

Tabi-tabi na sa kama ang mga mahihirap na pasyente sa Fabella Hospital sa Manila
Tabi-tabi na sa kama ang mga mahihirap na pasyente sa Fabella Hospital sa Manila

At ang mambabatas daw ang mas nakakaalam kung sino ang dapat mabigyan ng tulong. “You (legislators) know best and you know better sino ang nanganagilangan ng tulong sa distrito ninyo. ”

Alam natin na hindi ito totoo. May problema pag ang pulitiko ang makakapagdikta kung saan dadaloy ang tulong dahil:

  1. 1) Meron nang magagaling na propesyonal sa mga ahensya ng gobyerno, mula sa pambansa hanggang sa lokal na antas na may datos na ng nangangailangan; at
  2. patay dito ang mga mahihirap na kilalang bumoto o nangampanya sa kalaban.

Dito sa masamang ugat na ito lumalatay ang sinasabi nating “weather-weather lang”. Yung pagikot ng lahat ng bagay sa kung sino ang tinayaan mong baboy, este manok, at hindi sa kung ano ang tama o makatarungan. Meron pa sinabi si Usec Garin tungkol sa paglipat ng paglalaanan ng pondo kung kailangan ng isang mambabatas — na walang kinalaman sa pangangailangan ng tao kundi para sa dahilang politika o intensyong tumakbo sa eleksyon.

Nakakaiyak talaga. Bakit kailangan maglimos ang mahihirap na Pilipino sa mga mambabatas para makakuha ng klarong karapatan nila sa ilalim ng Konstitusyon?

At bakit pinanindigan pa ng Executive Branch itong mabaho at baluktot na sistema sa kabila ng desisyon ng Korte Suprema?

Hirap na nga sa buhay, busabos na, kailangan pang lumuhod sa mga diyos-diyosan. Ang mga miting ng taga- DOH at ng Commission on Higher Education (CHED) na tatalakayin ko sa susunod na blog ay nagpapakita lamang na walang intensyon ang pamahalaan ng Pangulong Aquino na tapusin ang pork barrel system. At ito ang pinaka-klarong ebidesya na hindi ang tao kundi sariling interes ang nasa kaisipan ng ating mga lider.

Sinabi ni Rizal na walang alipin kung walang magpa paalipin. Totoong marami ang walang lakas na lumaban. Sana naman ang may kakayahan ay hindi magbubulag-bulagan o magbibingi-an. Tama nang may ilang masasama sa gobyerno. Wag na nating kunsintihin sila.


justice-2Budget Secretary Butch Abad should resign — and not only because he takes attention and energies away from the trial of the plunder senators (Enrile, Estrada, Revilla and their cohorts like Napoles and Gigi Reyes).

He should resign because he presided (as alter ego of the President) over the crafting and implementation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a grave subversion of what could have been a landmark program.

Abad-w-Ehanced-DBM-logoAbad had urged people to campaign against PDAF. All the while, he was orchestrating DAP and the defense of DAP.

The irony here is that a portion of DAP also went to the same Napoles NGOs named in the PDAF scams.

Abad was a former legislator. He once chaired the House of Representatives’ powerful Appropriations Committee. He is an experienced executive branch senior official.

There was no way Abad nor his Boss, President Aquino — who, as senator, filed a bill to control impoundment abuses — could not have known that the nuts and bolts of DAP were unconstitutional.

I’m all for his resignation. I do not think he pocketed huge sums. I believe, however, that he and his colleagues and their Boss wilfully ignored all alarm bells and even warnings from worried insiders. The reason for this was not ignorance but a worldview, which holds that self-proclaimed noble intentions should absolve you of blame for legal shortcuts.

That kind of rationalization has no place in a functioning, genuine democracy.

Abad and the DBM have implemented reforms. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism earlier reported that the slowdown in infrastructure projects, aimed at improving efficiency and reviewing contracts for onerous conditions had, indeed, led to savings for the government.

But even a desire to involve communities in fiscal management should is no excuse for illegal acts. Nor should it blind people to the serious infirmities of DAP. At the very least, there are existing legal mechanisms that, combined with an exercise of political will, allow for this avowed intention.

malversation of funds technical“Intention” has long been a byword of tyrants.

I will not place President Aquino, for all his faults, on that level.

But the last time I checked, technical malversation (and that’s the kindest phrase for what happened) remains a crime in the Philippines.

Some folk also think that, since Abad was responsible for much of DAP — a program that allowed monies to flow again to the coffers of Napoles and friends — he could be charged with malversation of funds.

malversation of funds

The Supreme Court does distinguish between the two crimes. In G.R. No. 96025 May 15, 1991 (OSCAR P. PARUNGAO vs.SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES) the High Court stressed:

“A comparison of the two articles reveals that their elements are entirely distinct and different from the other. In malversation of public funds, the offender misappropriates public funds for his own personal use or allows any other person to take such public funds for the latter’s personal use. In technical malversation, the public officer applies public funds under his administration not for his or another’s personal use, but to a public use other than that for which the fund was appropriated by law or ordinance.”

As the Supreme Court notes, the government can always defend itself in a proper forum that determines facts.

Resignation alone doesn’t cut it. That’s a cop out that just allows another faction of the elite to enjoy the fruits of people’s indignation and then continue with the same gross acts.

While our justice system is flawed, a formal complaint and trial would at least shore up the legal foundation to prevent similar acts.

I also agree with Sylvia Claudio’s call On Rappler  — “Let the investigation of all DAP and PDAF resources continue, including the investigation of alleged DAP plunderers Bongbong Marcos and Vicente Sotto III” — but will add, AND ALL OTHERS INVOLVED IN PDAF AND DAP anomalies. 

If the former budget chief is facing charges for allowing monies to be pocketed by Enrile and company, why do we hold to a different standard of behavior in the era of tuwid na daan?

For now, I am against ouster efforts — until I actually believe there is an unchanging pattern in criminality within the highest levels of government.

I also get that, yes, the minions of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla et al, will try to make us believe that they should not be punished unless PNOY is punished, too. That’s bullshit. Nobody should buy that argument.

#scrappork network pushes for plunder raps against Senators Enrile, Revilla and Estrada and Janet Napoles. Photo from
#scrappork network pushes for plunder raps against Senators Enrile, Revilla and Estrada and Janet Napoles. Photo from

But a distinction should be made between the malicious twisting of the call to campaign against selective justice (see Tanda, Sexy and Pogi) and the sincere belief that, while there should be no let up in the plunder and graft charges, it shouldn’t stop with the three pigs.

At the very least, probes SHOULD start and the chips fall where they must.

To dismiss this need because of the need to focus on the plunder raps against Enrile et al misses the entire point.

Besides, the early missteps in these plunder raps cannot be placed at the foot of PNOY’s critics.

There is focus. Then there is justice. Nobody said it would be a picnic.

Claudio is right to point out it’s a long process. But to fall silent on the need to hold people accountable, for expedience or a fear of other sectors, is to delay that process.

There are mandated legal forms of redress. I cannot say “do it” to Tanda, Sexy and Pogi and then attack others for using the same to hold others accountable. If they have the energy and resources to pursue these efforts — and where a sitting President is concerned, impeachment is the mandated mode — I will not throw stones at them.

The fact that, as a citizen, I prefer to exert my energies on other things, are a reflection of my limitations rather than a rejection of others’ efforts.

(Update: The DOJ seems focusing only on senators again. The Ombudsman has also formed a panel of investigators; let’s see how that goes.)