Why Militant Left needs to explain their PDAF use

There seem to be this misconception about PDAF— pork in general. Having pork is not the same as being evil. Using pork for evil— getting kickbacks from it is evil. Can you see the difference between it? The existence of pork is not per se proof of nefariousness. Again: the mere fact a legislator has pork, and used it, does not imply wrong doing.

Take for example reading the DBM website. In 2009, Rep. Binay spent 12 million on vermiculture (product or process of composting using various worms) for the 2nd district of Makati. She also spent 200,000 pesos for indigent patients for Rizal Medical Center, and another 1 million pesos for National Kidney Transplant Institute.

Binay PDAF

These in itself do not suggest wrong doing. It does not suggest she spent her PDAF on nefarious purposes. These are the questions you can ask:

  1. Why does the 2nd district of Makati need to train in composting, and how effective was it for backyard vegetable and herbs gardening?

  2. Did that training go to actual training, or ghost project?

  3. How did the 2nd district of Makati benefit from this sort of training?

  4. Did the NGO/Implementing Agency of the vermiculture project— real?

  5. Is it true that the recipient were indigent patients? Can show proof?

How about this? Bayan Muna spent 100,000 pesos in 2013 for monoblock chairs. They also spent 700,000 for “Financial assistance for the implementation of CIDSS Program (Livelihood Program-Training on Organic Farming & Demo Farm and Alternative Learning System)”

Bayan Muna - PDAF

Again, this in itself is not indicative of wrong doing. It does open up questions such as:

  1. Where those received by the targeted school (Am pretty sure if someone calls up that school they can answer yes or no, right?)

  2. Are these monoblock chairs being used?

  3. What is level of quality of those mono block chairs— and do they meet standards set by the Department of Education (or whomever sets standard for it).

  4. On Livelihood program: farmers learn? Did they get info needed? Is it kulang, or do they need more training?

Again— in on itself— this data from DBM is not indicative of wrong doing.

Then you get testimony from the whistleblowers. Is Revilla telling the truth? Is Mr. Estrada? Well, you can look at the DBM data and if they correlate to what the government, the whistleblowers have to say, maybe there is something there to demand an investigation or indictment, don’t you think?

In the case of Rep. Binay— Rep. Edgar Erice’s allegations do correlate with some of Rep. Binay’s PDAF disbursement. While that in itself doesn’t imply wrong doing— it does suggest someone should investigate if these allegation are indeed true, don’t you think?

This is the problem with how the militant left frames the question. Everyone is a crook because pork is evil. Well, they used pork too. If pork was used to buy chairs for kids, I think we can all agree that shouldn’t be an issue, yes? If pork was used to cheat the people, then that’s why we punish crooks. How hard can it be for the militant left to also publish their accounting of how they spent PDAF like what Raissa Robles is asking in her post?

So all this talk that the DBM data doesn’t provide color? Of course, it doesn’t. It only provides part of the puzzle. It does not generate more color than straight cold facts. It does however get you to ask questions, like what Raissa Robles is doing, and other journalists because if this data is out there, and we citizens can’t ask our elected officials how they spent their monies, then what good is it? Put it simply, the DBM data is a data point that leads you to ask questions.

5 Things you should know about the #DAP

Screenshot 2013-10-02 21.55.08
  1. Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP) is a government economic stimulus package created to increase government spending in 2011.

The World Bank noted in a quarterly report on the Philippines that DAP boosted the economy.

“The government’s Disbursement Acceleration Plan was partially successful and contributed 1.3 percentage points (ppt) to GDP growth in Q4″

(please see: World Bank: Philippines Quarterly Report March 2012)

  1. #DAP is NOT a secret fund or program. Has been in the news as early as October 2011.

Ben Diokno has argued the same things he did in 2011 as he did in 2013.

  1. The Department of Budget and Management realigned unreleased appropriations from 2010, and 2011 plus windfall revenues from government-owned and controlled corporation dividends to fund #DAP

  2. As of December 2011, Government spent 85% of the PHP72B initial DAP fund of which, 6% were for lawmaker nominated projects, DBM Secretary Abad says in a press conference yesterday afternoon (October 3, 2013).

  3. DBM Abad argues that the realignment was done through Constitutional provision on power of President to realign. On the argument that you can not fund projects not in the GAA, Abad argues that the budget has two aspects: Programmed and unprogrammed. Programmed are those projects or activities of the government with allocated monies. Unprogrammed ones are projects or activities that have no funding source yet, but should monies become available, for example: SC declares 70 billion Coco Levi fund is the government’s so the government can use that monies to fund unprogrammed parts of the budget.

Image Source: WB Philippines Quarterly Update (March 2012)

Editor’s note this is an edit of the Original post: 5 things you need to know about PNoy’s Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP). Edited for better readability.

Tanda, Pogi and Sexy in the dock

I predict Tanda will be acquitted. Pogi will admit he is Pogi. Sexy will also admit but he will face an additional charge of perjury.

Tanda has from the very beginning stated that he does not know Napoles, that he has had no dealings with her. In addition, he said that due to his age his doctors have advised him to stay away from pork. And so he passed the pork to his chief of staff. He is off the hook. But that has placed his chief of staff on the spot.

Prosecutor: “Madame, who is the Tanda referred to in the code book of Mrs. Napoles?”

Chief of Staff: “I don’t know.”

Prosecutor: “A number of witnesses testified that Tanda was Mrs. Napoles’ code name for your boss.”

Chief of staff: “My boss does not know Mrs. Napoles, he has never had any dealings with her.”

Prosecutor: “But documents show that his PDAF went to NGOs controlled by Napoles. If he never had any dealings with Napoles then that leaves you, Madame. Are you therefore the Tanda in the code book of Mrs. Napoles?”

Chief of Staff: “How dare you! I am not tanda, excuse me, may asim pa ako!”

Sandigan Judge: “May asim pa nga siya. (Stage whisper: “Miss, pwede mo ba ako i-friend sa FB?”) Not guilty! ”

Pogi was next on the stand.

Prosecutor: “Senator, are you Pogi?”

Pogi: “I hear that a lot, sir.”

Prosecutor: “So you are admitting that you are Pogi?”

Pogi: “Hindi naman po sa pagyayabang pero hindi lang si Janet ang tumatawag sa akin ng pogi.”

Prosecutor: “Aha! Meron pa palang iba maliban kay Mrs. Napoles?”

Pogi: “Of course, hindi lang siya, box office king ako, sir, malakas akong tumabo sa taquilla.”

Prosecutor: “The State rests, Your Honors.”

Sandigan jusdges: “Guilty!”

It is Sexy’s turn.

Prosecutor: “Are you Sexy?”

Sexy: “Well, I have been called sexy ever since I lost a lot of weight.”

Prosecutor: “Mr. Senator, remember that you are under oath, let me ask you again and I advise you to weigh your answer carefully, are you Sexy?”

Sexy: “Yes.”

Prosecutor: “Your Honors, I would like to cite the senator for perjury.”

Sandigan judges: “Kuya, are you sure you want to stand by your statement that you are sexy?”

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.

Lady’s choice

What will have more profound impact on society, Janet Napoles going to jail or a bunch of senators and congressman going to jail?

Media has been fueling speculations about the Napoles surrender as if it was a privilege that was accorded to her because of her irresistible influence and connections or that it fits with some kind of Palace masterplan to destroy the opposition.

It was not a privilege. Napoles surrendered to the president because she believed he could guarantee her safety. She had accused the NBI of extortion. Who in their right mind would surrender to the very people you accuse of extortion?

She was also a threat to those legislators who are suspected of conniving with her. She could bring them down with her.

She tried to surrender to Cardinal Tagle but he, unlike other bishops, knows the line between church and state. He refused to become involved.

Ultimately, Napoles was the only one who could decide whether to surrender or not and to whom to surrender. When she decided to surrender to the president, he was left with one of two options, accept her surrender or keep looking for her. If you were the president what would you do?

The more important issue is the speculation that the surrender of Napoles was some kind of masterplan to destroy the opposition. The spin fits perfectly with the attempts of the suspected associates of Napoles to deflect the people’s anger.

Remember the initial reaction of the suspects when the Napoles case first hit the front pages? They asked why only us the opposition; what about administration allies? They also decried the drip-drip of information coming from the Commission on Audit and the Justice Department.

They had a good propaganda line until the COA report finally came out and the entire list of legislators and NGOs were published. That forced the suspected legislators to shift gears. They began to point to the P3B error involving Rep. Zamora and the Luis Abalos who turned out to be BenHur, as if those minor errors that the COA clarified immediately were enough to discredit the report in its entirety. They began characterizing the report as riddled with errors, asking how it can be trusted if such blatant mistakes were not seen right away. Well, you can’t blame suspects for exploring every avenue to save their asses.

As early as the midnight presscon of DILG secretary Mar Roxas one reporter already tried to put a negative spin on the Napoles surrender. She was so insistent on injecting doubt that an exasperated Mar Roxas asked her, “ano ba ito, sala sa lamig sala sa init?”

The reporter who I assume was only trying to put a dramatic angle to the story unwittingly plowed the field for Jinggoy Estrada to plant seeds of doubt in an otherwise straightforward surrender.

Today Jinggoy Estrada faced media and said, “I’m not saying that she will be used. But there are chances since she is already in government custody. As I mentioned earlier, some unscrupulous elements might just put words into her mouth.” In other words, it’s all part of a script?

It would be great if everyone involved in the scam were to land in jail, but what if you had to plea bargain with Napoles to get the senators and congressmen, would you? I would.

I would allow her to plea to a lesser sentence, even probation, if she can give testimony that will lead to a conviction for those senators and congressmen. Because that will have a more profound impact on the national psyche. In a few years, Napoles will just be another crook convicted of corruption but a bunch of senators and congressmen going to jail is for the history books.

Napoles could turn from a heel to a hero, if she makes the right choice.

Senator Bam Aquino: abolish PDAF, setup a People’s fund instead!

Editor’s note: While we don’t publish press releases, we think that this one deserves some space. Hit us in the comment section for your reaction to this proposal to the Pork Barrel/PDAF scam. The Senator intends to file a bill on it.

This is the full text of a press release which we received from Senator Bam Aquino’s office:


Senator Bam Aquino, who earlier suspended the use of his office’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) “until charges are filed” against the perpetrators of the P10B “PDAF scam”, now calls for the abolition of the pork barrel through an innovative measure. He proposes, instead, for a “People’s Fund” to be set up, to give Filipino taxpayers greater control over where a portion of their income taxes should go.

The People’s Fund “seeks to revolutionize public budgeting and funding by giving the taxpayers of the Philippines clear and concrete choices on where their money should go.”

It provides a mechanism for five percent (5%) of an individual’s income tax to be allocated to either of the following: (a) an accredited charity or civil society organization; (b) a national or local priority government project; or (c) a legitimate political party.

“To be clear, hindi ito bagong buwis na ipapataw sa mga tao. Ang People’s Fund ay manggagaling sa binabayad na ng mamamayan na tax kada taon. Ang pinag-iba lang ay merong kapangyarihan ang mga taxpayer na piliin kung saan pupunta ang porsyento ng perang ito. Ginagawa na ito sa ibang mga bansa; panahon na, na gawin ito sa Pilipinas.”

“After all,” Aquino continues, “our estimate of the People’s Fund is around ten billion pesos. Mas maliit pa rin sa papalitan niyang PDAF na twenty-five billion pesos. Sa kadulu-dulahan, nakatipid pa rin ang gobyerno ng malaking halaga na ngayo’y napupunta sa pork barrel.”

Under the bill, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) shall establish the mechanism that would enable individual taxpayers to select beneficiaries upon filing of their annual income tax returns. Meanwhile, an inter-agency committee led by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) shall determine the eligibility of organizations and initiatives, and shall likewise set the conditions, guidelines, and reporting requirements for the receipt and use of the funds by the benefitting organizations.

“People are sick and tired of seeing their taxes go to waste when precious money could instead be channeled toward initiatives that truly benefit millions of Filipinos. They are sick of the corruption that has been perpetuated by the current PDAF system. It’s time for the PDAF to go and bring the power back to the people through the People’s Fund,” Aquino adds.

On Virgie and Jinggoy

A new video of controversial LTO chief Virginia Torres playing a slot machine in one of the local casinos surfaced a day after an earlier and poorly shot video of her doing the same thing was uploaded on YouTube. The new video made her response to the original video sound like a lie.

“Yes, I remember having dinner with a friend in a hotel. While waiting for the bill to be settled, I saw the slot machine on the lower floor and out of curiosity, I sat in front of one machine and marveled at the lights and read the instructions. I immediately left when the bill was paid. This happened way back.”

How can she get out of the jam she’s in? By revising her initial response with something more plausible, something that if it matches how she looks then so much the better.

“Yes, I remember having dinner with a friend in a hotel. While waiting for the bill to be settled, I discreetly asked the waiter for the location of the nearest ATM machine. You see I decided to pay for our dinner but I had no cash on me. The waiter pointed me to the lower floor. I went down to the lower floor where I was immediately overwhelmed by banks of ATM machines with colorful flashing lights and catchy sound effects. I had never seen ATMs like that before. I had no idea how to operate them so I sat in front of one machine to read the instructions. I pressed the buttons after I thought I understood the instructions. But nothing happened. And that’s why you saw me in that new video standing up and moving to another ATM machine. I was so embarrassed when I learned they were slot machines and not ATMs. This happened way back, when I first arrived in Metro Manila from Tarlac.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who has been prominently linked to the pork barrel scam refiled a bill he calls the Magna Carta for Journalists.

“Marami rin kayong mga kasamahan at kakilala na talagang hindi naman lehitimong miyembro ng media. Maraming bogus na media personalities. Itong bill na ito I believe would promote the welfare of our friends from the media,” he said by way of explaining why the hell anybody who wants to be a journalist must first pass an exam prepared and administered by a panel whose composition and qualifications will ultimately be determined by Jinggoy, since he is the author of the Magna Carta for Journalists.

“Remember I am a friend of media,” he added, to reassure journalists that he had nothing but their best interest in his heart. Jinggoy is also a friend of Janet Lim Napoles, if I may also add. Let’s go to the pork barrel scam.

I cannot find any plausible explanation why Jinggoy thought washing his hands ala Pontius Pilate is the best way to address the question why hundreds of millions of his pork barrel did not go to intended beneficiaries.

“It is not up to the senators to determine whether an NGO is bogus or not. It is within the functions and the powers of the DA to determine if an NGO is bogus or not. Alangan naman na kami pa ang magsasabi na, “Oy, bogus ‘yan.” How will we know? Even if we endorse a certain NGO, we will have no idea whether it is bogus or not. It is done in good faith. If it endorses a certain project to a particular NGO, iniisip namin na accredited ng Department of Agriculture ‘yon. Ang office ko is not an implementing agency. The implementing agency here is the Department of Agriculture. Hindi naman kami nagpapa-implement. We are just here to determine the projects,” he said.

Every year, in the course of passing the national budget, Congress must review line by line not only the proposed budget but also how well the previous year’s budget was spent.

Senator, budget oversight is a duty, it is not a matter of caprice. You are duty-bound to care for our money as if it were your money and not to spend our money like it was your money.

You cannot claim to be too busy to comb the budget because oversight comes first, before all the other legislative work that you do like refiling a Magna Carta for Journalists bill. Seeing to it that the administration implements existing tax and spending measures or any new ones that you may pass is your number one job. Everything else follows. Think about it.

Sure implementing agencies are responsible for projects identified by legislators but is it too much to expect a legislator to at least scrutinize his own pork barrel, specially during budget deliberations?

Why are legislators so sensitive when asked about their pork barrel? I think the answer is obvious and that’s why I believe calling for the abolition of pork barrel misses the mark.

The problem is not the pork barrel, the problem is the pigs who gorge themselves on it. Get rid of the pigs.

Get rid of the pigs and pork barrel will cease to be a problem. Get rid of the pigs and pork barrel will function as it is supposed to, as a fund that addresses particular local needs that the national government missed.