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Joker: Noy govt fascist

Says dictatorship already upon us Former senator Joker Arroyo on Wednesday slammed the Aquino government as a “fascist dictatorship” that brooks no criticism and that misappropriates public funds to punish its political enemies. “We just don’t observe it, but there is already a dictatorship. If you criticize the government, you will be declared an enemy. You will be charged. What kind of government do we have now?” Arroyo said. “The people are now afraid to complain. How many charges were filed but don’t go to trial? Have you seen any big cases undergoing trial? None. They are just cases to destroy reputations. That is the system now. It’s a fascist system using the budget,”Arroyo added. Arroyo said the Palace should explain how P72 billion and P55 billion were spent in 2011 and 2012 under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that had remained secret until the pork barrel scandal brought it to light this year. “Nobody knows how P72 billion was spent. Nobody knows how P55 billion was spent. They should explain this before they file new cases against so many people. They are filing cases, but they should file the cases against themselves.” Arroyo, who served as executive secretary to President Benigno Aquino III’s late mother, President Corazon Aquino, said the administration should learn to listen to complaints. Arroyo attacked the Aquino administration after Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said he had availed of P47 million in DAP funds. But Arroyo said he had applied for funds under the regular budget and did not know that the funds actually came from the DAP, and said he would have turned them down had he known. He insisted that the DAP was illegal because it was not supported by any law. “According to Malacañang, the savings for the past years were coursed through DAP and they can spend it like a lump sum—P72 billion in 2011 and P55 billion in 2012. Imagine, nobody knew about that amount until the [pork barrel scandal] broke out. Nobody knew about it,” Arroyo said. He said unlike the previous four presidents, President Aquino had no regard for the guidelines under the Administrative Code, which he said it used to divert government funds. “What standards do they use in spending savings of the different departments?” Arroyo said. He added that popularity does not give the President a license to commit a crime. The late Mrs. Aquino and ousted President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada were both as popular, but they did not invoke the law to resort to illegal spending. Arroyo said he believed the Palace used him as “a deodorant” to cover the fact that it used the DAP to reward congressmen and senators who voted to impeach and convict the President’s political enemy, Chief Justice Renato Corona. “They know that I did not vote to impeach Chief Justice Corona, so they want to make it appear that there was no bribery since I was against the impeachment,” he said. On Tuesday, the President and Palace officials admitted that some of the DAP funds might have been misused, but vowed Wednesday that stricter measures would be taken to prevent such abuses. Presidential spokesman Erwin Lacierda said the public must accept that the DAP was legal and that the Palace has already abolished PDAF. Legal experts have refuted the Palace arguments on the legality of DAP while critics have dismissed its “abolition” of pork barrel as phony. Lacierda again appealed to the public to focus its attention on opposition lawmakers who were charged with misusing pork barrel. He also said he was confident that the legality of the DAP would be upheld in the Supreme Court, where several petitions against it have been filed. On Tuesday, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said PDAF “on its face is illegal” because the President cannot share the power to use public funds with the legislative branch. Carprio said another provision in the budget that may be deemed unconstitutional is the power of Cabinet secretaries to realign funds. But Lacierda disputed Carpio’s view, saying Cabinet secretaries can realign savings because they are the alter egos of the President. Lacierda also said just because Senator Panfilo Lacson did not know of DAP’s existence didn’t mean the program did not exist. He said the President even announced a P72 billion stimulus package in 2011 as a product of the realignment of government savings. Echoing the Palace line, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, who accepted P10 million from the program after Corona’s conviction, said the DAP was constitutional and was a legal means to boost economic growth. In a news conference, Belmonte said the DAP was important in implementing projects nationwide, and would be used to rehabilitate Zamboanga City, which suffered billions of pesos of damage at the hands of Moro rebels. “Definitely my stand is it is legal, constitutional and logical. What we’re trying to do is jumpstart the spending,” Belmonte said. Earlier, the dean of the San Beda College Law School and the former dean of the Ateneo de Manila University Law School both said the DAP and disbursements made under the program were illegal. But Belmonte justified the use of savings by saying it enabled the government to move swiftly on important projects. “Unlike in the past when we only determine savings at the end of the year, now early in the game we know if we have savings. Why would you let the money sleep?” Belmonte said. On Tuesday, the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) asked the Supreme Court to declare the creation, establishment and implementation of the DAP unconstitutional and illegal. Petitioners included former University of the Philippines College of Law dean Froilan Bacungan, former Budget secretary Benjamin Diokno and former national treasurer Leonor Briones. Philconsa accused Abad of violating the Constitution by taking away from Congress its exclusive power to appropriate funds when it pooled the savings of government agencies to create DAP. With Sara D. Fabunan and Maricel V. Cruz
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