Friday, December 15, 2017
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There’s the Rub

Fatal shots

P-NOY explains why he is not accepting Butch Abad’s resignation: “The notion in the current atmosphere is DAP was bad for our people. Even our most vociferous critics grant that DAP has benefitted our people. To accept his resignation is to assign to him a wrong, and I cannot accept the notion that doing right by our people is a wrong.”

Virtually every part of that statement is off.

The part about government’s most vociferous critics granting that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) has benefited the people isn’t true at all. In fact the opposite is: Only government’s most vociferous defenders grant that the DAP has benefited the people. And grant as a matter of faith, as a given.

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Most everyone, critic and defender alike, knowledgeable and ignorant alike, do not really know what the effect of the DAP has been for the people. It remains to be determined, and the justice department and the Ombudsman among others mean to determine it. The proposition that the DAP has been good for the people is just that, a proposition. It is an assertion, a claim, a say-so. Specifically from Abad, specifically in the form of the DAP being a stimulus for growth. There is no proof that today’s growth—which truly can be granted—came from the DAP.

The part about P-Noy not being able to accept Abad’s resignation because it implies Abad has done something wrong when in fact he has done something right is even more off. It will hover over the Aquino administration like an albatross for the rest of its term.

There are in fact two issues here, which government either cannot see or refuse to see. The first is the unconstitutionality of the DAP, the second is the criminality of the DAP. The second is debatable, the first is not.

The second has yet to be determined, whether or not the DAP has been abused, whether or not its authors are guilty of corruption. The first has been settled: The DAP has no right to exist. It is unconstitutional, it is illegal. A unanimous vote by the Supreme Court is as near-absolute a determination of it as you can get.

The second is the only thing government can see, or wants to see. That was patent from what Edwin Lacierda has been saying these past few days. He it was who immediately came out to exonerate Abad before the public, saying that “91 percent of DAP has been spent properly, there’s no doubt about it,” and that “Secretary Abad did not in any manner, shape or form gain funds from these programs.”

Which naturally drew brickbats not just from critics but from the public generally. The ease with which government cleared Abad, critics said, was matched only by the ease with which it jailed Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile. Indeed, the blitheness with which Lacierda can make categorical statements about the DAP’s propriety and Abad’s honesty, the public said, is matched only by the Church’s claims to be able to make infallible pronouncements about the truth of things.

But which they themselves fail to address the real problem. That is that, quite apart from whether the DAP was used rightly or not, it was wrong. Its authors, Abad, chief of them, had committed a wrong. As a friend texted me, the PCSO’s plunder case against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo makes no presumption about her profiting personally from the diversion of Sweepstakes funds, it only charges her with the misappropriation of it.  “How is that different from Abad’s case? Why is it permissible now to say, ‘He did not steal it,’ or ‘He did not profit from it’? Malversation is malversation.”

The unconstitutionality of things is not something we may treat lightly or dismiss as a minor thing, a “lapse in judgment,” or in this case as the unfortunate product of “good faith.” Giving the president the power to juggle funds is a wrong, it is an iniquity, it is a crime. You may not turn the country from a democracy into a “fiscal dictatorship” to stimulate the economy and benefit the people.

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Lest we forget, Marcos himself justified declaring martial law to arrest anarchy and scuttle the oligarchy. Which he did at first, only to spark a more anarchic despotism and to mount an even more oligarchic crony system. Which shows why taking a patently wrong means for a presumably right end is wrong. An extreme example, doubtless, but it partakes of the same principle.

“To accept (Abad’s) resignation is to assign to him a wrong?” Yes, it does. But then, oh yes, he has, which is the monumental danger that not accepting it poses. Whether Abad has personally profited or not from the DAP is something that remains to be proven, and he truly has to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in that respect—no more and no less than Revilla, Estrada and Enrile. But whether he has done a wrong or not has already been proven: The Supreme Court assigned him a wrong when, to a man and woman, it ruled the DAP unconstitutional.

Certainly, it hasn’t helped his cause that he hasn’t spoken up on something that was his brainchild from the start. Preferring instead to be defended zealously by Lacierda and loyally by P-Noy himself for it. Or indeed becoming vocal only now, after the Supreme Court has trashed the DAP like a used condom. That is what he has been doing of late, arguing his case in the court of public opinion, saying the Supreme Court missed an important budgetary provision that allowed him to do what he did, that allowed previous presidents to do what he gave P-Noy the power to do. Which is a case of too little, too late: He should have argued it when it mattered. If at all it mattered.

That P-Noy will not accept Abad’s resignation can only reinforce the public’s impression that this is one government where it is the president who will take a bullet for his men and women and not the other way around.

Alas, this last bullet may very well prove to be fatal.

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TAGS: Disbursement Acceleration Program, florencio abad, nation, news
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