State of the nation: rotten to the core
President Aquino will address the people today (Monday), via national television, starting at 6 p.m., according to Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, from Malacañang. He is expected to explain the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
On July 28, the President will deliver his fourth State of the Nation Address. I think the people already know the real state of the nation: it is rotten to the core. For years, almost all government officials—from presidents to members of Congress to members of the Cabinet and their subordinates, to the local government officials down to the barangay captains—have been feasting on the people’s money like predators feasting on the carcass of their hapless prey.
The next president has his work cut out for him: Reform the bureaucracy so that the thievery that has been going on for years will not be repeated.
I think all the branches of government—the executive, legislative and judiciary—and the constitutional institutions are guilty of outright kleptocracy, tolerance of it and massive neglect. What are their sins?
The executive: It commits the original sin by including in the budget it sends to Congress appropriations meant to be stolen. For example: It knows that pork barrel funds are being stolen by senators and congressmen. All it has to do to stop the theft is not to include any appropriation for the pork barrel in its budget. But year after year, the Department of Budget and Management appropriates funds for the pork barrel. Why? Because the president can use it to bribe legislators. The pork barrel funds of cooperative lawmakers are released promptly; those of uncooperative ones are delayed or not released at all. The pork serves as a carrot-and-stick clamp.
The DAP was invented by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to bribe senators to convict impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Cabinet members were either in cahoots with the pork barrel thieves or woefully negligent. We have seen how easy it was to concoct fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs), foundations and cooperatives, which the executive department was supposed to check. All that Janet Lim Napoles had to do was make a list of bogus NGOs, have the pork barrel funds of legislators assigned to these NGOs, give commissions to government officials along the way, give half of the pork allocation to the legislators, and she would be laughing all the way with
almost half of the loot to the banks.
The legislative: The biggest thieves are in Congress, stealing hundreds of millions of pesos every year. The job of legislators is to legislate, but they insist on doing the work of the executive by initiating public works and other projects and funding these with their pork . Why do they do it? Because they steal about a third or half of the appropriation for the projects which they give to their favorite contractors.
Local government officials are not left behind. Councilors have their own pork barrels. Quezon City councilors have, at last count, at least P4 million each every year. Recently, the board of a Luzon province gave expensive cars to each of its barangay captains, courtesy of the people’s money.
The judiciary: Because of the extremely slow administration of justice, the judiciary abets crime and corruption.
Even when a criminal is caught and charged in court, the trial is so slow that being caught and tried does not scare criminals. The average trial of a criminal case takes decades. The trial of Imelda Marcos is now four decades old and still there’s no end in sight. This has emboldened her to dream of returning to her old glory in Malacañang.
The Supreme Court can hasten the wheels of justice but it is doing nothing. On the contrary, it is often the cause of the delay. Even an application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) takes years for it to decide. And when it gives a TRO, it is “indefinite,” there is no deadline. The maximum life span of a TRO it has allowed the lower courts to issue is 60 days. If you get a TRO from the high tribunal, it is almost as if you are acquitted.
The constitutional commissions: The Commission on Audit (COA) shares part of the blame for the spread of corruption. By shifting to a “post-audit” scheme, it has abetted corruption.
“Post-audit” means auditing an office’s finances after the money has been spent. Even if it finds something wrong, the money is gone. Even when it orders the culprit to return the money, he either will not or cannot do it because he has spent the money.
In the pre-audit system, the finances are audited before the fund is released. Thus any wrongdoing can be stopped before it is committed. The COA should go back to pre-auditing.
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