COA

ProPinoy Exclusive: COA Chairperson answers some of your questions on PDAF Scandal

ProPinoy caught up with COA Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan and asked her about COA’s work in the pork barrel scandal, what we can expect next, and some plans underway to make government auditing a community effort. Read on!

PP: If COA conducts annual audits, why were these fraudulent projects not caught earlier? Why did it take a special audit under your direction to investigate these anomalies?

Pulido-Tan: The yearly audit of agencies is more in the nature of a compliance or financial audit, the main focus of which is to determine whether the financial statements are in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles. In the process, certain deviations or questionable transactions may be uncovered and reported, but the audit is not as extensive or in depth as a special audit. A special audit, on the other hand, is focused on a specific program of government and involves several agencies involved in the program, like the recent PDAF special audit. This kind of audit is more extensive and in-depth, and the auditors assigned for audits like this are more highly trained and skilled. The PDAF special audit was started in May 2010, before my time; it was completed in July 2012. Writing the report and getting the comments of the covered agencies took another year, hence it was released only in July 2013.

PP: In a previous interview, you mentioned uncooperativeness from the DBM resulted in some errors in the special report. Is this common when conducting an audit?

Pulido-Tan: In any audit, we rely on certain reports and information given by agencies, like the DBM, specially on matters within their functions and authority, like releases from the budget. We have the right to presume that official duty has been regularly performed. Nonetheless, we also have procedures to validate these reports, but we also need other documents which the DBM could not give us despite repeated requests. It is not uncommon for agencies to be uncooperative, because in an audit, vulnerabilities are usually uncovered. Sometimes, it is not a matter of being uncooperative; it could simply be a cavalier attitude towards record keeping and accountability on the part of the agencies. Not everyone takes these things seriously.

PP: Can you describe COA’s process of contacting the NGOs and beneficiaries concerned? What is the best effort applied by COA?

Pulido-Tan: COA exerted all efforts to contact and reach the NGOs, and this is standard procedure. We sent letters, rarely any responded. We went to their given addresses. Some we found, many we did not. It’s either the addresses were fictitious or located in residential areas or turned out to be occupied by different persons.

PP: Some legislators denied their signatures in projects the COA was auditing. Is this common? Were their records falsified, or does the evidence suggest that the lawmakers (p59-60) were indeed involved in the scheme?

Pulido-Tan: It is not for us to make a determination whether their signatures are fake. We simply state that in our report. It is a matter of defense for them, a rather common one.

PP: Can the COA report itself be used to file charges? What can government and ordinary citizens do to file substantial charges against the implicated persons and entities?

Pulido-Tan: The Report can be the basis of further investigation. This is what the IAAGCC (Inter Agency Anti Graft Coordinating Council) is now doing. The IAAGCC is composed of the Secretary of Justice, the Ombudsman and the COA Chair, the “three furies” as news reports call us. The role of the COA is to turn over and present our source documents on which our report is based for the evaluation of the OMB and DOJ Sec. This is called the fact-finding phase of the investigation. They are the ones who will decide if cases should be filed and against whom.

PP: What are COA’s next steps after releasing this report?

Pulido-Tan: We shall continue to do our work as faithfully and well as we can, without fear or favor, and assist the OMB and DOJ Secretary in the investigation and build-up of cases.

PP: You were recently at a World Bank forum unveiling the COA’s Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA). How can such the process be strengthened and rolled out to involve the public in auditing the PDAF? Are there plans to institutionalize the CPA?

Pulido-Tan: The CPA is a new program we launched last year, to involve citizens in actual audit of certain projects that impact their day-to-day life in a real way. We have piloted it on flood control, garbage collection systems, disaster aid, basic health care in every barangay, and availability of schools and classrooms. We are in the process of institutionalizing it and hopefully, we can do it for PDAF- funded projects as well.

PP: What other reforms need to take place within the COA itself so that we can be assured of transparency, accuracy, and integrity beyond PNoy’s administration? How can the public be reassured that COA is acting independently?

Pulido-Tan: Beefing up our manpower complement with the best, brightest and most upright; continuously improving their capabilities thru targeted training and workshops; properly rewarding them for their hard work and protecting them from harassment; computerizing our processes so reports are more informative and timely.

Can pork really be abolished, legally or otherwise?

Whether pork should be abolished is a different question from can it be abolished.

Following the successful Rizal Park protests on August 26 spontaneously organised by netizens through social media against the abuse of pork barrel, the question now has to do with next steps. The president sought to pre-empt the rally on Friday, the 23rd by abolishing the Priority Development Assistance Fund, only to reinstate with the same breath congressional earmarks through a different mechanism.

It became apparent from his remarks that pork barrelling would remain, albeit with more stringent constraints placed on the identification of projects and awarding of contracts to suppliers. With three years remaining in the presidency of Mr Aquino, doubts regarding the effectiveness and durability of his reforms began to sink in.

Twitter hashtags #ScrapPork and #MillionPeopleMarch were soon brimming with suggestions on how to name pork’s new incarnation. Interesting acronyms such as BABOY, LIEMPO, NACAW and KUPIT bubbled up across the ether, expressing the cynicism people felt towards the president’s determined effort to re-insert pork in line agency budgets. Many were calling for the abolition of the president’s special purpose and discretionary funds, which are seen as no different from congressional pork.

Like the EDSA uprisings which relied on mass media as in 1986 and SMS text as in 2001, this uprising relied heavily on social media, which is how the original idea was conceived and spread. Unlike the EDSA revolts, this one does not seem to be calling for regime change but instead seeks changes in policy to be made.

It can be characterised as a taxpayer’s revolt against the politics of patronage and privilege that the country is so prone to. Although leaderless and inchoate, the message from the masses seemed clear: (1) they want pork abusers to be investigated and prosecuted, (2) they want greater transparency and accountability in the use of their taxes from their leaders, and (3) they are for the total abolition of pork, including the president’s own special purpose and lump sum funds,

With regards to the first point, the investigations into abuse are nearing completion. The Department of Justice will be filing cases soon, Sec De Lima says, although the prosecution of cases will take some time to culminate (Clarification: this refers to the Janet Napoles scandal; the Interagency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council is about to commence a separate investigation into the anomalies uncovered by the COA special audit of PDAF from 2007-09). On the second point, the administration has already been providing information regarding PDAF releases on the Department of Budget and Management’s website.

With these funds being abolished and new pork being reinserted into line agency budgets, a freedom of information law will be needed to facilitate greater access to information, and a whistle blower protection law would encourage whistle blowers to come forward without fear. The third and final point on the abolition of pork is perhaps the stickiest of them all. Let me explain…

Policy questions crystallised

What to do with pork?

There are several policy questions, which the PDAF scam has crystalised. The main policy question is: what to do with pork? The palace wants to keep it. Legislators sensing the changing political winds are saying they are willing to give it up, so long as the president does the same. A principled few point out that pork does have its uses in a representative democracy. The people on the street, as previously mentioned, want it abolished completely.

To be legally enforceable, however, the abolition of pork would have to be enshrined in law. The enabling legislation would have to prohibit congressmen and senators from lobbying for certain projects. This might be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court given the powers of congress, the lower house in particular, over the budget. Abolishing the president’s slush fund on the other hand can be done legally by amending the charters of the PCSO and PAGCOR and overriding EO 683 covering Malampaya royalties.

The abolition of congressional pork can only be achieved if congressmen, senators and the president voluntarily abstain from it. That is the crux of the problem. Those who want to abolish pork would either have to create a radical, moral transformation in our leaders. Barring that they will have to call for constitutional change, and that is probably not in the offing.

But with proper prudential measures in place, pork can at least be scrutinised and evaluated more closely. The only problem is that without a legal mandate to bind successive administrations, such measures could be easily reversed. And even if such procedures were codified in law, nothing prevents the next congress from relaxing them later on when public anger has subsided.

This leads us to two supplementary policy questions. The first one has to do with how to improve the calibre of politicians running for public office. The second question has to do with development planning, on how it should proceed so that local needs are appropriately identified, prioritised and met.

How do we improve the calibre of our politicians?

The abuse of pork is really a symptom of a much deeper problem in our state: the weakness of our political parties, making elected members of congress extremely vulnerable to the patronage of Malacañang and consequently more compliant to its wishes. Conceptually, pork was a way for congress to exert the power of the purse through the budget. It has not worked out that way in practice. The palace still has a way of withholding pork from specific congressmen unless they kowtow to its preferred line.

A weak president suffering from illegitimacy can use pork to stave off an impeachment complaint and other embarrassing congressional investigations. The executive then becomes hostage to the whims of a rent-seeking congress. A strong president on the other hand can use pork to railroad legislation through congress and produce poor public policy, as a result. Congress becomes compliant, addicted to Malacañang’s patronage in that situation.

The question on how to maintain the integrity of both branches in the face of patronage from Malacañang and rent-seeking from congress can be answered if we were to look at electoral campaign finance and political party reform measures as well as compensation for elected officials. I have written extensively on this already.

If we were to follow the pattern set by many modern democracies, the Commission on Elections would be given the task of administering election campaign funds. The distribution of these funds could be based on a prescribed formula, for example, pro-rata based on the votes received by each accredited party at the last election. This would mean that if an elected official switches parties, the funds that his party is entitled to at the next election would not transfer to the new party. They would remain with the former party.

This reduces the incentives for turncoats. It also prevents the administration from withholding the funding of opposition parties, since the budget of Comelec would include the state subsidies for all political parties, which would guarantee that all of them receive the state funds that they are entitled to based on law. The compliance unit of Comelec would need to be beefed up to conduct proper audits of election campaigns.

Making the provision of taxpayer funds to accredited parties conditional on their adherence to equal opportunity in the selection of candidates, as evidenced by a low threshold for political dynasties would also promote a merit-based selection of candidates for public office. Political dynasties will not be sanctioned through state funding. If political dynasties want to compete in elections, they would have to do so outside the state funded system. This would provide the electorate with a real choice through viable alternatives. Raising their pay and providing allowances to deal with their work in their electorates would keep them honest.

How do we improve the identification and prioritisation of development projects?

If the calibre of our politicians is improved and their integrity protected through campaign finance, political party reform and better pay, it follows that the formulation of public policy would be improved. Consequently, the identification and prioritisation of development projects would have a better chance of following a more rational process. This is essentially what taxpayers get in return for supporting their politicians and their parties adequately. In a representative democracy such as ours, it is the right of congresspersons to press for the interest of their constituents. Whether local projects can then be characterised as pork depends on the basis for their approval.

If funded by the administration to buy votes, with less of a consideration for economic and social benefits relative to other alternatives, then yes, they could be considered pork. If on the other hand, these projects are properly scrutinised for their economic and social returns and productivity dividends, then they would be considered good public policy. The bottom-up budgeting approach which the administration is currently pursuing may lend itself to both pork barreling and rational planning.

In the end, no system however well-designed will withstand the pressure to conform to established norms of behaviour unless the people that manage it are of exceptional character and skill. To promote an inclusive, participative budget process when our political process is exclusive and favours only the connected and powerful few would simply guarantee that the process is rigged from within.

Policy tools need sharpening

In the final analysis, both the government and the people it represents and hopes to govern will have to come to some kind of new arrangement. The August 26 movement has signalled that the old status quo cannot hold. The question now on everyone’s minds is what the new state of affairs will look like. What policy tools are best suited to address the problem presenting itself through the PDAF scam?

The measures announced by the president last Friday fell short of the mark. They failed to measure up to the expectations that the public rightly held regarding what to do with PDAF in the first instance, and with pork more broadly. Prosecuting abusers and increasing transparency, two of the demands of protesters are arguably happening, but abolishing pork altogether is a bit more challenging.

For one, the constitution gives congress the power of the purse. Within a representative democracy, this gives legislators the right to pursue the interests of their constituents in setting the budget. They might voluntarily abstain from pork, but they cannot be prohibited from it. The abolition of the president’s discretionary funds on the other hand can be achieved legally. New legislation could require the proceeds of gambling revenues and mining royalties to go to the national treasury to fund general appropriations submitted to Congress for approval.

An alternative I would suggest is to create two trust funds: one from the Malampaya account of the Department of Energy to pay for climate change mitigation and adaptation programs in the island of Palawan and other vulnerable communities, and another from the president’s social and charity fund from the PAGCOR and PCSO respectively to provide deferred loans to tertiary students and fund universal health care through the National Health Insurance Fund.

With regard to congressional pork, the measures announced by the president last Friday need augmentation. An FOI law will equip the citizenry with the necessary tools to examine the way their taxes are spent. Beefing up the capacity of the Commission on Audit, Department of Justice and Ombudsman to undertake forensic accounting and electronic surveillance will help preserve the integrity of the system. Codifying the new administrative budget measures in law will tie the hands of successive administrations to conduct budget processes above board.

Finally, to transform our politics, we need campaign finance and political party reform measures. You can keep fiddling with the system. But if the people running it are selected and then compensated in such a way that makes them susceptible to rigging the system, all this reform will come to nothing in the end. To improve the process, one needs to improve the people, through better selection and compensation.

To use an analogy in business. You hire someone to run the shop for you, but you don’t really monitor that person’s performance properly, you don’t pay him adequately, and you give him unlimited discretion to make decisions. After a while you suspect that person of robbing the firm, blind. You conduct an audit and find out that he has been charging his personal expenses to the firm.

You are upset, you withdraw all his expense accounts and limit discretion. Do you really think that having had a taste for easy living, this will stop the shenanigans? The answer, is no, so you fire him. But replacing the person won’t deal with the problem unless you change the way the firm handles employee selection, pay, performance and decision rights. The government is currently focused on improving performance monitoring and limiting discretion, but it also needs to address the way we select and elect our politicians and the way we pay them.

Abolishing all forms of pork through legal mandate is close to impossible, but improving our political system to prevent the abuse and misuse of pork is actually quite do-able.

Shell, Chevron among big-time tax cheats in Philippines

Shell, Chevron among big-time tax cheats in Philippines
By Carlos Conde on Asian Correspondent

One important snippet of news that was generally ignored this past week was the disclosure, by the Philippines’s Commission on Audit, that the Philippine government was duped (“shortchanged,” which the Philippine Daily Inquirer used in this report, is too tame a word to describe this anomaly) of more than 53 billion pesos (about $1.1 billion) between 2003 and 2009 from its share of the operations of the Malampaya project.

The Malampaya project is one of the largest natural gas explorations in the Philippines and held the promise of considerable revenue for the government. The main operators of the project are the US company Chevron, the Dutch oil giant Shell and the Philippines’s Philippine National Oil Corp.

According to the COA, the corporate incomes taxes of these companies were deducted from Manila’s 60-percent share of the profits. In effect, according to this report, these companies did not pay taxes for seven years.

Clearly, this is big money and more revenues are expected in the coming years, something that can immensely help the Philippine government to bridge its tax gaps. If Manila knows what’s good for its financial health, it should prosecute these companies and collect those taxes.

More than that, however, the government should really start watching out for its own welfare — not to mention the welfare of the people who bear whatever impact these projects have — in dealing with foreign companies such as oil and mining firms.

I am reminded of the exploration by ExxonMobil in Sulu province, which started after US troops were sent to the south supposedly to fight terrorism (nudge-nudge-wink-wink). I read somewhere that local officials had complained that they were not consulted on this project. One congressman even suggested a congressional investigation into the exploration, arguing that he wanted to make sure his people would benefit from the project, as they should.

In the mining sector, we’ve heard of countless tales of communities being displaced and damaged by mining operations but, in exchange, received paltry benefits, if at all.  This is one of the reasons why mining has such a bad rap in the Philippines – many mining companies are not only negligent of the impact of their projects on the environment but are often too greedy to share the profits equitably with the people in the affected communities.

It has often been said that the Philippines has some of the most abundant mining and oil resources in the world -– wealth that could easily lift millions of Filipinos out of poverty. But Filipinos are still mired in poverty, with the government being forced to borrow money from multilateral lending agencies such as the Asian Development Bank to give out to the poor. In the meantime, these companies not only make a fortune – they cheat the government of billions of taxes that could benefit Filipinos, particularly the poor.

Aquino hard-put to fill 5,000 top gov't posts

Aquino hard-put to fill 5,000 top gov’t posts
By Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Research, Inquirer Central Luzon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

APPOINTMENTS TO GOVERNMENT POSITIONS are not being made fast enough because President Aquino is hard put to find “good people” to take on public service.

Speaking with reporters at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, the President said he was giving priority to certain government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) as well as government financial institutions because of “a sense of urgency as we discover that there are transactions that are still being attempted to be pushed through.”

He said an obstacle that his administration was facing in filling up critical positions was “the difficulty of finding good people.”

As many as 4,301 executive and management appointees, as well as over 50,000 rank-and-file employees, were coterminous with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Mr. Aquino has been swamped with applications from persons wishing to join his administration since a month before he was sworn into office.

“We have to find people who will work on our platform and not continue the age-old and wrong platforms,” said Mr. Aquino, whose campaign battle cry was “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap (No corruption, no poverty).”

“The problem is, it’s no joke to enter government service. Your salary will go down, while criticisms will multiply. It’s difficult to convince good people to fill up these positions,” he said.

A Commission on Audit report puts the number of GOCCs at 601.

So far, Mr. Aquino has appointed Daniel “Bitay” Lacson and Cristino “Bong” Naguiat as chairs of the Government Service Insurance System and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., respectively, and Jose Honrado as chief of the Manila International Airport Authority.

Among the other GOCCs are the Bases Conversion Development Authority, Clark Development Corp., Cultural Center of the Philippines, Home Development Mutual Fund, John Jay Management Corp., Laguna Lake Development Authority, Land Bank of the Philippines, Light Railway Transit Authority, Lung Center of the Philippines, Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System, National Electrification Administration, Philippine Ports Authority and Social Security System.

The President was in Subic, Zambales, on Friday to inaugurate the Philippine National Police’s School for Values and Leadership.

He said there would yet be no changes in the top positions of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), including its board of directors.

“We have not reached the SBMA yet. In truth, I’d like to repeat, there are something close to 5,000 positions [to fill up]. And I have to appoint people up to director level,” he said.

However, Mr. Aquino said he had found someone to take the helm of the Metro Manila Development Authority. But he refused to divulge the appointee’s identity.

Asked to comment on Mr. Aquino’s remarks, SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said: “Well, we hope that the President allows us to finish our term. But of course we serve at his pleasure. If the President [wants a change in the SBMA leadership], of course we will accede to his request.”

Dick Gordon

Arreza’s term as administrator, like that of SBMA Chair Feliciano Salonga, began on Sept. 23, 2005, and ends on the same date in 2011.

Asked Saturday by text message if he was considering appointing to the SBMA ex-Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon, one of his defeated rivals to the presidency, Mr. Aquino replied: “Haven’t gotten to it yet.”

Gordon said at a press briefing early in June that he was not selling himself to Mr. Aquino in the hope of getting an appointment.

“I love my country,” he said. “If I can be of assistance, why not? But I will not lobby aggressively. I did not lobby for any position with [then President Arroyo].”

Gordon, who served as tourism secretary in the early years of the Arroyo administration, is covered by the yearlong ban on appointments of defeated candidates in the elections.

When pressed to name a post he would like, Gordon, a native of Zambales, said: “If I am given a chance, I would prefer the SBMA. If Noynoy (Aquino’s nickname) feels I can be of service, fine, I’d think about it. I’d be honored to be given the chance, but I will not lobby for it.”

Gordon is credited with transforming the former US naval base in Subic into a free port and investment hub. With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

BSAIII action plan on corruption

A Social Contract with the Filipino People

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Action Plan on Corruption

Corruption is the main cause of poverty in the country and the reason why Filipinos have lost trust in government. Noynoy Aquino believes that corruption is not part of our culture and that Filipinos are honest, decent, fair and hardworking. Honest and competent public officers and a professional and accountable civil service supported by active people’s participation will remove corruption and restore trust in government.

As President, Noynoy Aquino will lead the fight against corruption and restore trust in government.

  • Noynoy Aquino will appoint public officials based on their integrity, qualifications and performance record and will hold them accountable to the highest ethical standards of public office.
    • As required by law, all Department Secretaries, Heads of Agencies, and senior officials from Director to Undersecretaries will be required to have their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) available and accessible to the public.
  • An Aquino Administration will ensure transparency and citizen’s participation in crafting and implementing laws, rules and regulations and in monitoring the programs, projects and transactions of government.
    • Uphold the people’s right to information on matters of public concern and support the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill in Congress.
    • To enable citizens to help stop corruption, information about the government’s budget shall be organized, packaged and distributed to the media regularly and posted in the internet so the public may know, understand and monitor how their money is spent.
    • Strengthen people’s participation with simple and clear procedures for citizens to monitor all government projects and report their feedback through accessible means.
  • Strengthening the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Ombudsman will be a top priority in the campaign against corruption. We will fully implement the recently passed Prosecution Service Act in order to strengthen the national prosecution service, attract qualified lawyers, and institutionalize a more effective witness protection program while improving training and equipment.
  • Ensure the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman by appointing a competent and credible Ombudsman who will be true to the mandate of the office and will pursue unresolved cases of corruption and human rights abuses committed by public officers.
  • An Aquino Administration will put into place a “zero-based” budgeting system to enhance transparency and improve efficiency.
    • Budget allocations for the different agencies of government will be shaped by their performance and their compliance with the reports of the Commission on Audit (COA).
  • Noynoy Aquino respects the professional bureaucracy and will establish ways to motivate and energize the professional bureaucracy.
    • Qualification standards, especially on eligibility, will be strictly followed, and at least half of the positions of Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries will be filled by honest and competent career civil servants to ensure continuity and sustainability of effective policies and programs.
    • Government offices will be streamlined and rationalized so that agencies have clear cut and distinct mandates in order to spur greater efficiency and accountability.
    • Performances of government agencies and civil servants will be evaluated rationally and systematically through an effective and measurable performance management system to be approved by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
    • The Civil Service Commission (CSC) Performance Management System-Office Performance Evaluation System (PMS-OPES) will be linked with the DBM Organizational Performance Indicator Framework (OPIF) to ensure accountability of government agencies and officials.
    • Review the mandates and performance of government agencies and Government Owned or Controlled Corporations (GOCCs).

[Archived from the official campaign web site of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III]

BSAIII action plan on the economy

Economy: Walang Maiiwan!

Action Plan on the Economy

Underlying all the problems and weaknesses of the country and the economy is corruption and the weakening of our democratic institutions. We will restore trust in government by emphasizing good governance and anti-corruption to increase investment, regain people’s trust to pay proper taxes and ensure that the people’s money is well spent.

  • We will uphold the people’s right to information on matters of public concern and vigorously support the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill in Congress
  • We will ensure transparency and citizen’s participation in crafting and implementing laws, rules and regulations and in monitoring the programs, projects and transactions of government
  • We will put into place a “zero-based” budgeting system to enhance transparency and improve efficiency.
  • Budget allocations for the different agencies of government will be shaped by their performance and their compliance with the reports of the Commission on Audit (COA)
  • Qualification standards, especially on eligibility, will be strictly followed, and at least half of the positions of Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries will be filled by honest and competent career civil servants to ensure continuity and sustainability of effective policies and programs
  • Performances of government agencies and civil servants will be evaluated rationally and systematically through an effective and measurable performance management system to be approved by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

We will have broad based and inclusive economic growth through increased incomes by generating quality jobs and attracting more investments.

  • We will have a government that is not corrupt and is business-friendly, thus lowering the cost of doing business and production in the country.
  • We will reduce red tape, reducing the number of processes required to do business in the country.
  • We will improve infrastructure in transportation and housing, which will generate jobs and also support investments.
  • We will directly target industries with the greatest potential for growth and where the Philippines has a competitive advantage, industries that have already been identified by domestic and foreign business groups and include agribusiness, business process outsourcing, creative industries, infrastructure, manufacturing and logistics, socially responsible mining and tourism and retirement.
  • In the immediate short term, we will take care of the most vulnerable and marginalized sectors of society through programs such as conditional cash transfers dedicated, among others, to keeping healthy young children in school.
  • We will promote entrepreneurship that provides employment, helping small and medium firms with access to credit and diffusion of technologies and skills.
  • We will focus investment expenditure in the very urgent need to invest in education (especially in early childhood education) and in health.
  • We will promote technical/vocational schools to strengthen the labor supply and better match the needs of enterprises.

A clean government will facilitate macroeconomic stability, reigning in the record level deficits of the current administration, and bringing down the debt-to-GDP ratio.

  • We will plug revenue leakages by having competent and trustworthy tax collectors, broadening the tax base.
  • We will instruct DBM to lead an internal government review of all its costs and present a plan to reduce government overhead within six months.
  • We will review policies and programs to enhance productivity and modernize the agricultural sector.

[Archived from the official campaign web site of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III]

BSAIII action plan on peace and development in Mindanao

Aquino-Roxas Mindanao Peace and Development Agenda

Action Plan on Peace and Development in Mindanao

Peace and Security

Transparent and consultative peace process

Workable peace is possible only if supported by a broad, active and informed peace constituency.

  • I will assume direct responsibility for the revival of the peace process with the MILF.
  • I will reconstitute the peace panel with men and women of integrity who will directly report to me. There was a time when the peace process was doing well until the Arroyo Government began to use the peace negotiation as prop to political survival. I will see counsel from peace advocates like former OPAPP Secretary Deles, Peace Panel Head Afable and former Notre Dame University President, Fr. Mercado to put back on track the credibility needed in the peace process.
  • I will ensure the participation of various Mindanao stakeholders – Muslims, Lumad, Christian settlers – in the negotiating panels and working groups;
  • I will create a niche for the participation of other Muslim “gatekeepers” particularly traditional and LGU leaders, MNLF, the Ulama, Bangsamoro civil society.
  • Request the Bishops-Ulama Conference to submit a report on the results of the consultations it conducted in the aftermath of the failed MOA-AD; likewise with all known civil society organizations and academic institutions which undertook similar consultations or researches in the past year, such as the University Network on the Mindanao Question led by the UP School of Law, the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, and the Al Mujadilah Foundation.

The results of all these processes should be collated, with key points of agreement and contention identified for inputting into the peace mechanism, as appropriate. On this basis, a mechanism should be devised for these groups to participate in the continuing dialogue on and monitoring of their recommendations.

MNLF

  • I will immediately convene the Oversight Committee on the Organic Act on Muslim Mindanao (RA 9054) and complete a review and assessment of the implementation of the law. I will issue an Executive Order reviving/extending the function of the Oversight Committee, which was last convened before 2004 and which never completed its task, and impose a deadline for the completion of its work.
  • I will order the Department of Foreign Affairs, with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), to give a report on the tripartite review of the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement and cull the “immediate doable” measures that government can undertake.
  • I will order an inventory of the backlog on assistance to MNLF rebel returnees, as the basis for determining the requirements and timetable for addressing the gap and closing the existing program, while a new program is crafted in cooperation with concerned LGUs and approximating the international standards on DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation) of former combatants.

Indigenous People

  • We will review the recent appointment of the Commission to ensure they are in accordance with the law and rationalize the NCIP plantilla to professionalize the bureaucracy to do its mandate under the law, including the delineation of ancestral domains (AD) and support the development of the Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP).
  • I will work with IP communities and all land and resource-management related agencies for a thorough review of all Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs), Certificate of Ancestral Land Titles (CALTs), and Certificates of Free Prior and Informed Consent (CFPICs) issued towards weeding out those issued defectively, fast-tracking decisions on all pending applications, and providing support for development and implementation of the ADRMP for areas covered by CADTs.
  • I will ensure basic education, health, and sanitation facilities and services for IP communities.
  • I will look into the immediate situation of security of IP communities in areas of ongoing armed conflict.

Internally Displaced Families

Families displaced by conflict will receive full support to be able to return to their communities of origin, if they so desire.

  • I will put up a compensatory fund which will provide shelter, food and livelihood assistance to enable the estimated 30,000 internally displaced families to return to their homes.

Lawless and Criminal Elements

I will dismantle private armies and take a firm hand against all forms of lawlessness

  • I will ensure the prosecution of all identified perpetrators of the Ampatuan massacre. I am aware that the families of the victims and witnesses of the crime are vulnerable to harassment as well as bribes to weaken the case. I will ensure that families of the victims and witnesses of the crime will receive adequate protection and support as they work for justice.
  • The Maguindanao massacre was not just a local Maguindanao problem. It was abetted by the national government with government policies and resources. DND should submit immediately the result of its investigation and inventory of the arms and ammunition confiscated from the Ampatuans and identify civilian and military leaders responsible for the build up of arsenal of the Ampatuans.
  • I will revoke EO546. Never again will public funds be used to support and maintain a private security force.
  • KFR incidents are national security concerns. I will commit full budgetary support to PACER in establishing and implementing an anti-kidnapping strategy in Mindanao; provide full support for the filing of charges against suspected perpetrators, including full protection for released victims and their families.
  • Under my watch, I will ensure that all security forces will be insulated from partisan politics. I will implement the Defense Reform Program started by former DND Secretary Nonong Cruz which aimed to build a professional AFP. A professional AFP along with a professional PNP committed solely to defend the constitution and uphold the law is the key to the dismantling of private armies and implementing the gun control. All forms of excuses for self-protection can be abandoned only when citizens trust state security forces.
  • We will aim to improve the ratio of security forces to our growing population.
  • All appointments in the AFP and PNP will be based on merit and performance.
  • Forces on the ground will be provided with adequate provisions, equipment and training to be able to discharge their duties effectively.

Governance

Performance Incentives

Setting National Policy: Performance- and outcome-driven over-investments in education, health, and employment interventions.

  • I will match every peso invested by 4th and 5th class LGUs in basic education, maternal and child health care and potable water and latrines.
  • Moreover, I will provide additional support to performing LGU’s so they can fast track filling the gaps in attaining targets for their education, health and sanitation programs. In education I will support LGU efforts to attain 100% basic education enrolment, lowering dropout rates and increasing completion rates.

Transparent and proper use of public funds

I will ensure that all fund releases to all LGUs will be transparent and its utilization fully accounted for.

  • I will support DBM’s effort started by former Secretary Emilia Boncodin in regularly publishing and disseminating all releases to the LGUs.
  • I commend COA for their fearless reports which exposed politically sensitive cases such as the Jocjoc Bolante fertilizer scam. I will ensure adequate support to state auditors for proper and accurate audit reports. And their reports will not end in filing cabinets. The OP will take the necessary action on irregularities in the COA reports.

Free and honest elections

I will ensure free, honest and orderly elections.

  • I will release the Mayuga Report to make public the findings on the role of the military in the controversial 2004 elections.
  • On the next ARMM election in 2011, I will install measures that will hold paramount the will of the people of ARMM. The military and the police will remain strictly politically neutral. They will ensure that the election is clean, orderly and peaceful.

Development

Infrastructure

To transform Mindanao into modern agricultural center and the nation’s food basket.

I will address infrastructure gap in farm to market roads, irrigation and post harvest facilities.

Corollary to this, to substantially reduce post-harvest losses, post-harvest facilities will be provided to Mindanao corn, coconut and rice farmers while processing facilities will be made available to coastal fishers and aquaculturists.

Additional irrigated farms will raise cropping intensity and hence productivity contributing in the process to the attainment of the goal of self-sufficiency for specific commodities and bolstering export-competitiveness for others.

  • During my term, I will improve its total road network by bringing its current paved road ratio closer to the national average. This will lower transport costs and post-harvest losses.
  • Corn driers will be priority of DA under my watch. Every 1,000 hectares of corn land will be serviced by at least 1 corn drier.
  • Irrigation coverage will be expanded. Mindanao has about 700,000 hectares of farms that need irrigation. We will expand irrigation facilities to service half of the area by the end of my term, subject to sound cost-benefit analysis.

Public Investment

In areas of Mindanao where private investors are hesitant to invest due to high risk and uncertainty, my administration will establish state enterprises that will partner with potential private investors or extend guarantees to them to spread the risks. The purpose is to generate investments in these areas as a way of jump-starting economic activities and providing employment opportunities so direly needed in these communities. This will be the government’s direct assault on breaking the vicious cycle of lack of jobs, resulting to greater poverty, in turn partly fuelling the conflict, leading to lack of investments and lack of jobs.

  • Among my priority will be government investment in the development of the Halal Industry. This, first and foremost, will answer the essential need of Filipino Muslims for access to food and non-food products that is consistent with their faith. This will also enable local producers, Muslims and non-Muslims, to partake of the multi-billion dollar world halal market.
  • I will encourage investments in our energy sector to tap more diverse sources of power and lower the cost of energy in the long term. In the short term, I will support moves to mitigate the effects of the power crisis such as:
    • Leasing power barges
    • Contracting additional generating capacity through cooperatives and private utilities
    • Allowing the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to use ancillary services such as the contracting of back-up generating capacity
    • Promoting demand side management

[Archived from the official campaign web site of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III]