Budget 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)