FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - July 8, 2014 - 12:00am

It must be the Palace itself spinning the line that impeaching President Aquino will be futile  and therefore not even worth initiating. Not impeaching the President will be an act of moral cowardice and an abdication of republican duty.

The “disbursement acceleration program” (DAP), is the largest single instance of malversation of public funds possibly anywhere in the world where a constitution operates. Every other instance of graft pales in comparison to the wholesale corralling of “savings” and its diversion to purposes determined by only one person, with neither criterion nor procedural check.

The Palace advances the entirely cynical justification that this program was done “in good faith.” That does not excuse the crime. More important, that excuse is not supported by the allocation of DAP funds we already know about.

We all know of the billions allocated for legislators, largely to reward the impeachment of the chief justice. We all know of the billions more disseminated, without guidelines, to ARMM local executives to buy support for a peace plan that, in turn, some of the President’s most delusory allies imagine might win him the Nobel Peace Prize.

The DOJ received P11 million for “operating requirements.” The House of Representatives got P250 million for something congressmen do not use, a new library. The DILG, led by presidential wannabe Mar Roxas received a windfall: P250 million for unspecified purposes; P43 million for “special capacity building projects”; P253 million for “local governance management program”; and another P52 million for “debris management after Typhoon Pablo.”

The PNP (also under Roxas) received P2 billion for its “modernization program”; P1.87 billion for hiring personnel; and another P115 million for unspecified purposes. Portions of the President’s largesse crossed borders and went to constitutional agencies like the COA and the Ombudsman. These constitutional agencies are the ones that should now investigate the use of the DAP funds (with hands tainted).

Joker Arroyo put it so colorfully: the legislative branch consented to rape. Without complaint, this branch of government allowed its power over the purse to be voided – as long as they shared in the fruits of the crime.

In 1999, we were told the same thing: it is futile to attempt to impeach President Joseph Estrada. He enjoyed immense popularity ratings and had the numbers in both houses of Congress. Only about 8 congressmen backed an impeachment complaint.

We all know what happened subsequently, as the details of scandalous behavior unfolded before the public. In the present case, only culpability needs to be proved for a program already ruled unconstitutional.

The impeachment process will educate the public. The impunity that went with the wholesale malversation of public funds should not be allowed to pass.


Last week, President Aquino torpedoed his own “centerpiece” public-private partnership program (PPP) by intervening in a completed bidding process and commanding it be put under presidential review. The project involved is the Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAx) project and the bid was undertaken, following all rules strictly, by the DPWH.

Hours after the Palace announced its intervention into the bid, international business wire services flashed the news and promptly declared the PPP to be “in disarray.”  The respected Management Association of the Philippines immediately warned that more delays could happen in the PPP projects.

We know the DOTC has been badly bungling its bidding exercises. In the Cebu-Mactan airport project, losing bidder Filinvest directed its appeal only as far up as the DOTC. On the common station controversy, aggrieved SM went directly to court. By stepping into the CALAx bidding controversy, the Palace succeeds only in convincing investors the already unremarkable PPP is highly politicized. There can be no more damaging message than this.

There are other major projects caught up in what seems to be power play. This is the reason why, very late into this administration, no major infrastructure has been delivered. It will likely end its term delivering none.

Four years ago, for instance, the Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corp. (MPTDC) proposed connecting the NLEX with the SLEX with a toll road using the airspace of the existing rail line. After four years, the decision on this still hangs.

First, the authorities said the proposal will be submitted to a “Swiss challenge” (where competitors demonstrate capability to do the same project at lower cost). Then the proponents were told the project will be undertaken as a “joint venture” with government, the latter owning the right of way. The proponent agreed.

Now MPTDC is told the whole project will swing back to the “Swiss challenge” method of awarding public works. The dilly-dallying on the part of government leads some businessmen to speculate power brokers have gotten into the game, intending to grab the project for themselves.

At bottom line, like the CALAx matter going to the Palace, time is lost. The connector road, had it commenced four years ago, would be largely done by now. That would have greatly relieved traffic load now clogging up Edsa and C-5. Increased efficiency of movement would have brought immense benefits to the economy.

At the rate government is playing this shell game with the project proponent, shifting from one mode of bidding to another at whim — this particular piece of vital infrastructure might not get done.


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