Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘PDAF’

Corona Impeachment Trial: A Pandora’s Box

Posted by butalidnl on 24 April 2012

The Corona impeachment trial is not an ordinary trial. By its nature, and due to the national attention to its proceedings, it is turning out to be a Pandora’s Box – bringing to the fore issues about corruption and abuse of power beyond that of the trial itself. While these issues may not be resolved during the trial; they have been raised, and will have to be addressed by the Philippine political system.
The campaign against corruption will advance more through resolving these issues, rather than on whether Corona gets impeached or not.

SALN. Attention has been given to SALNs (Statement of Assets,Liabilities and Net Worth), which are formally required of all government officials and employees. Before the trial, filing it was only a routine procedure; but now we realize that not only should government officials file SALNs, but that they should also be accurate. And that the assets claimed should be ‘explainable’ given the officials’ income.
In discussing Corona’s SALN, the question has been raised about how accurate  SALN entries should be, and the conventions for making SALN entries (e.g. date of ownership, market values etc.)

Implementation of SALN rules will surely be more strict from now on. There will also be calls for the publication of SALNs of all elected officials.

Bank Secrecy. The existence of strict Bank Secrecy Laws (too strict, actually) has been brought to the public’s attention. People have seen the ridiculous extent to which these laws could be implemented. Congress will now have to pass a new Bank Secrecy Law that will allow government (especially the courts) to access bank accounts, including foreign currency accounts.

Executive Discretion. The issue of whether the Executive Branch can simply choose to disregard a Supreme Court order is also under discussion. Can a Cabinet Secretary ignore a Supreme Court order on the grounds that she thinks it was biased? What will happen to ‘rule of law’ where people can simply ignore laws that do not favor them? Shouldn’t Cabinet officials be sanctioned for disobeying the Supreme Court (I think they should, but I don’t think they would). In the future, Cabinet officials will be more careful before they decide to defy SC policies.

Courts will have to be more strict regarding violators of TROs. The De Lima precedent was followed recently by the administration of STC (a Catholic school which punished students for posting photos of them in bikini in Facebook) which ignored a TRO by a Regional Trial Court because the they said that they had filed a motion for reconsideration. This is partly the same logic that De Lima used.

Just Means. “A just struggle has to be fought with just means”- Mohagher Iqbal, 2002. The Corona impeachment process may be what is called a just struggle, but the means with which the pro-Aquino forces are fighting it are not just. The Corona trial will probably be determined by patronage, personal loyalties and wheeling-dealing, rather than by the facts of the case. And most people expect it to be so. The Aquino government is merely pulling strings in the old, politically corrupt way things have always been done.

But the people, who have been watching the trial on TV everyday, will not accept the old ways of politics as easily as before. There will have to be at least a semblance of a real trial, as a result of all the media coverage, It will set a standard for transparency in politics, which even the most hardened political wheeler-dealer cannot fully negate.

President Power over PDAF
Representative Tobias Tiangco said that his PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund ) allotment was not released after he refused to sign the impeachment complaint versus Ombudsman Guttierez last year. This use of Presidential prerogative in releasing (or withholding) Representatives’ ‘pork barrel’ raises the question of whether such control is justified. There would be calls to limit presidential discretion on the release of PDAF.
Another question would be whether PDAF allotments should be made in the first place. After all, the PDAF is used by Representatives in order to build patronage.

Lying About CV
Corona has also be accused of lying in his Curriculum Vitae, claiming honors that were never his.
This charge is rather trivial. After all, who does not ‘pimp up’ their curriculum vitae? The question, of course, is on the extent of ‘pimping up’ that will be allowed.

Hail Marys
‘Hail Marys’ is a term from American Football, when the quarterback throws the ball at no specific receiver And then, he just prays that it will be caught. This is seen as an act of desperation, as when the game is almost over.

The Corona impeachment is a case of a ‘Hail Mary’ thrown by the Aquino administration. They didn’t have a case at all against Corona, but they filed for impeachment anyway, under the logic that since most government officials are corrupt, Corona must also be corrupt, Since Supreme Court SALNs were not public, they assumed that they contained something improper. They calculated that Corona would most likely just resign if an impeachment case was filed. Well, he didn’t; and the prosecution had to be formed, even when they didn’t have a case.

So, they threw a ‘Hail Mary’ again, fishing for his SALN in the hope that some illegally accumulated wealth will show up. Now, it seems that this is being parried successfully by Corona’s defense. What will happen is what often happens with Hail Marys in football – the defense intercepts the ball, and the offensive side loses the game.

The whole Corona impeachment trial shows the folly of trying impeach someone just because Aquino dislikes him. The next time around, Representatives would demand much more proof of wrongdoing, before they impeach somebody else.

Posted in alternative media, Cebu, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Congressman Pacquiao?

Posted by butalidnl on 9 March 2010

Boxer Manny Pacquiao is running for Congress as the Representative for Saranggani Province. With the international fame and immense popularity he has, this should be a breeze, right? Wrong. I think Pacquiao is in for another disappointing defeat in his attempt to become a Congressman.

Pacquiao is running for District Representative of Saranggani. He will be running against Roy Chiongbian, who comes from the powerful Chiongbian family which has supplied all the congressmen for Saranggani since it was formed as a province.

Pacquiao is running with the suppport of the Nacionalista Party of Manny Villar, which probably means that he is going to get financial support from Villar for his campaign. This, plus his popularity, should be enough to make him congressman, he thinks.
Well, money plus his popularity were certainly not enough when he ran against  Darlene Antonino-Custodio for the seat of the First District of South Cotabato (which includes General Santos City) in 2007.  Darlene Antonino-Custodio defeated Pacquiao handily by more than 60,000 votes.

Pacquiao says that the Chiongbians had not done anything to uplift the lives of the poor in Saranggani province during their 16 years of controlling the province.  But my question is: if he really wants to reform Saranggani, why is he running for Congress? Wouldn’t it be better to run for Governor? I guess that the reason he wants to become congressman is in order to have access to a congressman’s PDAF (otherwise known as pork barrel funds), and distribute this to benefit the poor in Saranggani. Being governor would be a fulltime job, one which he cannot combine with boxing,  but he can always be an absentee congressman.

I would think that if Pacquiao really meant to change things in Saranggani, he should really run for the governorship, and have access to the even bigger IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment)  for Saranggani province. Pacquiao, as absentee congressman, could not access enough funds to develop Saranggani. But does the Philippines need another absentee Congressman?

The elections in Saranggani will be won by the so-called “command” vote, where local leaders deliver votes for the candidate. Chiongbian has a network of local leaders who cover the province. If Pacquiao wanted to exploit his fame, he should run in the city, where the “market” (votes dependent on the media and public opinion)  votes are more prevalent. But he lost in General Santos City in 2007.

I think  that part of the reason for his 2007 defeat, and his impending 2010 defeat, is that people prefer that he remain a fulltime boxer, and not be “bothered” by being a parttime politician. And of course, Pacquiao’s lack of political machinery in a rural area is sure to go against him.

So, is it “Congessman Pacquiao” come May? Probably not.

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No Work, No Pork

Posted by butalidnl on 17 February 2010

In August 2009, Nueva Ecija Representative Eduardo Joson proposed to have a policy of “No Work, No Pork”, in which Congressmen who are frequently absent in Congress sessions be deprived of their share in the PDAF ( Priority Development Assistance Fund, or “pork barrel”).  Joson proposed that a Congressman who has three unexplained absences from Congress’ plenaries in a month would be subject to such a punishment. The proposal was shot down by House Speaker Prospero Nograles because he says that it would be unfair to the congressman’s constituents to be deprived of such government spending – to the tune of PhP 70 million per year.

Fast forward to today.  Speaker Nograles has told Negros Occidental Representative Jules Ledesma that he will only get his salary and PDAF if he attends the last two sessions of this year. Rep. Ledesma is the House’s most notorious absentee congressman, having attended House sessions only twice in the 14th Congress. If he does so, he will get paid his full salary and get his PDAF for having attended House sessions for a grand total of 4 times in 3 years. I think this is scandalous.

Absenteeism in Congress is a big problem for its work. A lot of bills have had a difficult time being passed, because the House often lacked a quorum.  It has gotten so bad that sometimes, Representatives get paid (as in bribes) just to be present during the discussion of certain laws, even if they would vote against it,  as long as there are enough Congressmen around to have a quorum. I think this is scandalous.  The country spends a lot for Congress, and they are continually lacking quorum.

Perhaps it is time to again take up Joson’s proposal for “No Work, No Pork”. It may be too strict to say that three absences are needed before sanctions are taken on a Congressman’s PDAF. However, perhaps we could be a bit less strict. Let’s say that the limit is still 3 absences in a month, and if they exceed it, 1/12 of that Congressman’s  PDAF is taken away (that should be almost PhP 6 million). That way, they always have a chance to behave better in the next month.  And, so as not to be unfair to their constituents, let the PDAF portion be given to the provincial governor, with the specific restriction that it has to be spent in the congressman’s constituency. Or, alternatively, the amount could also be divided among the various municipal mayors in his district. This would take care of the problem of the constituents suffering for the sins of the congressman.

As for the absentee Representative himself, there should also be a sanction if he is continually absent.  For example,  if he is absent for 2/3 of the sessions in  a year, he would be expelled from the House of Representatives. And if he is expelled this way, that he will not be allowed by Comelec to ever run for a legislative position again.

All that is needed to implement this plan, is for the House as a whole to amend the House rules.

Posted in Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »