Aquino gets flak for keeping Abad

‘Rejecting Abad’s quit offer a way to protect self’

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III rejected the resignation of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Friday, triggering criticism that he was trying to save himself from the fallout of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, and giving “the middle finger to the Supreme Court,” which had ruled actions taken under the program as unconstitutional.“This [Abad’s resignation] is a clear admission that the DAP is wrong and President Aquino’s non-acceptance... is his way to protect himself,” Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has been summoned by the Senate committee on finance to appear

before a public hearing on July 21 and explain the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program.

United Nationalist Alliance secretary general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said Malacñnang again showed “utter disrespect” for the Supreme Court by absolving Abad of any culpability and by openly harboring the architect of the program that allowed the administration to illegally impound P170 billion in funds as “savings.”

Resignation rejected. President Benigno Aquino III
presides over a Cabinet meeting on Friday in
Malacañang, where he announced his rejection of
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s resignation.
Vice President Jejomar Binay was also at the
meeting and was seated across the President.
Malacañang Photo Bureau
“Today is a day of hellish lows. It may not be a bad day for Abad, but definitely a bad day for good governance—a bad day for the country,” said Tiangco, using a play on Abad’s name.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said the President’s decision showed was akin to giving the Supreme Court the middle finger.

“The President is protecting Abad and in turn protecting himself. Let us all remember that Aquino and Abad are in the same boat as both signed the memos ordering DAP releases,” Reyes said.

While the President’s allies in the House defended Abad as “an asset,” Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent minority bloc, said the Budget chief was weighing the President down and should have submitted an irrevocable resignation instead of pulling a “publicity stunt.”

“At this stage when no less than the Supreme Court has spoken, Secretary Abad is clearly baggage to President Aquino,” said Romualdez, also president of the Philippine Constitution Association or Philconsa, one of the petitioners that successfully challenged the legality of DAP before the Supreme Court.

Anti-pork barrel groups also weighed in Friday.

“Rather than retain and defend the chief architect of the DAP, the President should have fired him right after the Supreme Court ruled his baby unconstitutional,” said Monet Silvestre, spokesperson of the #AbolishPork Movement.

Silvestre said the President’s insistence on retaining Abad shows a “distorted sense of morality and propriety.”

“It tells the people that under his administration, you can violate the Constitution and even be praised for doing right,” said Silvestre, referring to the President’s statement that the DAP was done “in good faith” even after the Supreme Court unanimously struck down the program as illegal.

“The President’s retention of Abad is a stubborn defense of DAP and everything wrong with it, in the face of a clear SC ruling. In retaining Abad, the President is party to the coverup of DAP misdeeds. It is utterly disgusting and strengthens calls for the impeachment of the President,” Reyes said.

Paranaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting warned that good governance is being jeopardized by Abad’s continuing presence in the Cabinet.

“It’s President Aquino’s privilege to accept or refuse the resignation of anyone in his Cabinet but it reinforces the perception that his ‘Daang Matuwid’ criteria only applies to other people especially his political nemesis and not to his friends, party mates and allies,” said Tambunting, a UNA member.

But Dasmarinas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone defended the President, saying accepting Abad’s resignation would cement the notion that DAP was not good for the people when it served to stimulate the economy.

“President Aquino did the right thing in rejecting the resignation of Secretary Butch Abad who is a great asset to the administration. Abad was appointed to head the DBM to institute reforms in the national budgeting by advocating transparency and accountability in the use of public funds. He was the first budget secretary to have made public the use of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) on the DBM’s website and the President obviously did not want all his efforts to go to waste,” said Barzaga, head of House bloc for the National Unity Party.

“The calls for Abad’s resignation are off tangent, especially since there is nothing new with the Executive’s use of pooled savings to fund other projects, activities and programs. It has long been practiced by the previous administrations and it just so happened that the Supreme Court ruling was issued under the present one,” said Barzaga.

Evardone, a stalwart of the ruling Liberal Party and spokesman of the 188 Movement whose members signed the impeachment complaint against then Chief Justice Renato Corona at the President’s urging, said Abad did nothing wrong.

“The only mistake of Abad was to put a name to the use of savings to various laudable projects and programs that spurred economic activities,” Evardone said.

But critics of the program demanded accountability.

“Whatever Malacañang says, billions of pesos have been lost through the DAP and they should be held accountable for it. This further proves that filing an impeachment case against President Aquino and criminal charges against Abad is the right thing to do,” Colmenares said.

Silvestre lamented that to this day, the President has not changed his mind about pork barrel being a right thing.

“He is defending the DAP in the same way that he previously defended the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). For President Aquino, there is nothing wrong in pork barrel politics as exemplified in the DAP and PDAF,” Silvestre said.

“The President is covering up not only for Abad but is in fact saving his own skin, since he was the one who ultimately approved the disbursements under the illegal disbursement mechanism,” Silvestre said.

At a forum titled “#DAPat Managot” held Friday afternoon at De La Salle University, leaders of the #AbolishPork Movement said the least that the President should do in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on DAP was to “say sorry and accept Abad’s resignation.”

#AbolishPork Movement is a member of the People’s Initiative Against Pork Barrel that seeks to collect 5.4 million signatures nationwide in a bid to enact a law that would prohibit the pork barrel system in any form.

“As long as the President adamantly refuses to accept his wrongdoing, this government will get lost in its now crooked path,” the group said.

“I believe it’s a matter of I’ll-cover-your-back-you-cover-mine kind of arrangement. Malacanang already absolved Abad of any wrongdoing in DAP, and by protecting Abad, the Palace is also protecting the interest of the President,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco also dismissed Abad’s resignation as a sham.

“Maybe they should hire Nora Aunor so that they can learn how to act and sing,” Tiangco said, referring to the actor that President Aquino refused to make a national artist.

Tiangco said the “resignation script” only showed how the Palace protects its allies who are caught up in controversy.

A youth group also assailed President Aquino for what they called “a-badly scripted pretend resignation” and said that the act of rejecting Abad’s resignation revealed Aquino’s corrupt rule.

“This Aquino-Abad love team is disgusting. Pork barrel king Aquino’s rejection of Abad’s resignation shows that he is utterly corrupt. The public is not amused with their script. It is a-bad script with a-bad acting showing a-bad government,” said Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan chairperson.

“The Aquino-Abad pork rule should be ended. Aquino should step down, the people should remove Aquino from power,” Crisostomo said.

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon echoed the youth group’s position and said Abad’s resignation was a “mere trick” aimed at gaining public sympathy for the embattled Cabinet member, and consequently, the President.

“Secretary Abad’s resignation was an insincere resignation as it was not irrevocable. We’ve seen that before. Energy Secretary [Jericho] Petilla did the same gimmick last year. It’s a trick aiming to solicit public sympathy for both Abad and Aquino,” Ridon said.

“There is not even a speck of sincerity in Abad’s supposed resignation. Whoever thought of this Palace script is clearly new to his job. If Abad were truly repentant, he should have gone ahead and submitted an irrevocable resignation. While he’s at it, Secretary Abad should also have released all documents and details on the controversial DAP,” Ridon said.

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