Text: Tito F. Hermoso / Photos: Brent Co | posted August 04, 2014 19:23
Life after DAP and PDAF being declared unconstitutional
As the Administration's critics and the Left characterize the Administration's lash-back against the Judiciary akin to a pouting brat who didn't get its way with the Supreme Court, the motoring public is now anxious of the recently hopeful and positive scenario of major infra projects that we, on the street, see. With so many long forgotten anti-flooding and road mending/improvement projects finally getting traction, we were eager to bear with the traffic for so long as we finally get the infrastructure we deserve. But with both the DAP and PDAF now declared unconstitutional, what happens to the long postponed projects for better roads and less floods?
CaMaNaVa and VaObMey
Take the case of southwestern Bulacan and the CaMaNaVa [Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela] zone. Though the later is well known for frequent tidal flooding, the former, where the vital NLEx traverses, is prone to going underwater whenever the Bulacan dams open the floodgates, particularly during "Ondoy" and the Habagat floods of August 2012. DPWH, which has known for decades that the solution lay in rehabilitating not only the rivers in CaMaNaVa, but also the adjacent Valenzuela-Obando-Meycauayan tidal flood river zone and the Labangan Channel in Hagonoy have, with DAP funds, finally acted.
In also flood prone southwestern Pampanga, flooding caused by major siltation caused by the lahar from the '91 Pinatubo eruption was finally getting attention. These embrace the San Fernando-Sto. Tomas-Minalin Tail dike, construction of spillway No. 1 and spillway no. 3 including clearing and desilting/excavation of tributary rivers in the said zone, rehabilitation of Del Carmen – Balimbing creek in San Fernando and the rehabilitation of the breached Apalit-Arayat dike.
Squatting on the railroad
Corollary to this, both Bulacan and Pampanga, two provinces that were to benefit by the mothballed North Rail Project, informal settlers were reclaiming the railroad right of way that took a huge expense to clear back in 2006. All because budget cuts forced slashing security and grass cutting operations, which will result in even bigger expenses to clear the area of squatters all over again.
Critical "Y" junction
Hardy Angelenos of the City of Angeles, looking forward to the timely drainage and pavement reconstruction on Pandan-Magalang Road, Aniceto Gueco St., Friendship Highway and Balibago, may have to wait and suffer traffic and muddy diversions for much longer. As it is, Balibago traffic on MacArthur highway is already aggravating traffic at Aniceto Gueco St. while locals eagerly await the early finish of the culvert on the Pandan-Magalang "Y" junction to allow one way City bound traffic on Pandan thus avoiding the long and muddy diversion through a nearby empty lot.
Phase 2, now!
In northeastern Bulacan, residents have been waiting for the succeeding phases of the Plaridel by-pass, which eases the route of truckers that carry the Metro's vegetable supplies from Nueva Ecija and Cagayan Valley beyond. More relief roads will also be needed as the Iglesia ni Cristo's Philippine Arena attracts huge crowds in the Bocaue-Sta. Maria area.
Bridge too far?
In the heart of the Metro, three major projects will still need to get started. Though Makati traffic armageddon has been postponed, DPWH still needs to get started on the Buendia-Makati Ave. underpass and the Lawton Ave. to Santa Monica Pasig river bridge, or dubbed the Fort-Capitol Commons bridge to inveterate peripatetic shoppers. BCDA, though not affected by the DAP/PDAF scandal, will also get going with a new flyover ramp along C-5 and Mckinley Parkway. There are a lot more of these projects that will be in a state of suspended animation until the Legislature finds a way to continue funding these, within the remit of the Constitution.
The conflict of the DAP [Disbursement Acceleration Program] lies in the Executive and Judiciary's opposing interpretation of savings from budget appropriations, savings which is used to fast track economic stimulus projects. If it is genuine savings then the Executive had the right to accelerate the disbursement. But if its not, then it usurps the Legislature's prerogative to appropriate funds, the so-called power of the purse.
The PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund], is a discretionary fund which the Executive submits in the proposed budget and is used to woo legislators. In a round about way, this legal form of backscratching, violates, in spirit, the Legislature's prerogative to appropriate spending never mind if an acquiescent "rubber stamp" Legislature "surrenders" such powers to the Executive.
In both cases, the DAP and PDAF are not, in themselves, prima facie cases of corruption nor do they encourage it any more than regular General Appropriations. But since the power of the purse has been assumed and, detractors say, abused by the Executive, it is no surprise that it would shower these funds and disbursements to the pet projects or pork barrel projects of the legislators who do the Executive's bidding. Corruption? Perhaps by some stretch of the imagination. Graft? Probably. Abuse of power? But what are in we power for, one may retort.
DBM and NGOs
The corruption part happens when the legislator chooses to give the fund to a recipient like a bogus NGO, especially one that promises a kickback in the form of a rebate. Such a rebate can take the form of an advance or loan to the legislator, some of whom have been, according to prosecutors, caught red handed following up DBM disbursements. Bogus NGO or not, the channeling of government funds to the fake NGO is no different than the classic method of corruption: channeling funds to ghost projects/deliveries.
BIR and COA
With all the strict bidding requirements, some almost onerous to the point that a decent paying contractor, won't even break even, corruption still happens. Unless there are whistleblowers, corruption can only be caught after the fact. BIR lifestyle checks on winning contractors, DPWH and DoTC checks on post project performance sturdiness and product delivery and COA post audits are just a few of the many anti-corruption checks.
The investigation and culling of all these methods of corruption in projects and contracts awarded by previous administrations was the primary aim of the Administration's "Daang Matuwid" mantra or as some say, witch hunt. Indeed, they found many to question but in the course of investigation and eventual cancellation, economic growth drastically slowed down. No administration would want something like that to happen.
What to do? Enter precedent. DAP's accelerated disbursement and PDAF pork barrel funding have existed in one form or another in previous Administrations. Budget Secretary Abad, having been in Cory's Cabinet is no stranger to this. Which explains why he knows the various methods to get funds moving fast into producing tangible results, the only kind an empowered voting populace knows and appreciates.
The end justifies the means? We don't believe this to be morally correct, but it doesn't mean that unconstitutional is criminal. Splitting hairs in contesting definitions? More like it. Comeuppance? With the government prosecutor class overruling trained doctors orders regarding the health of imprisoned but unconvicted accused senators, ex-presidents and staff and the impeachment of a Supreme Court Justice, it is not surprising that the media flak and karmic retribution the Administration is getting is deserved and asked for.
Left, left out?
Of course the ambitious Left would like to see the whole democratic-oligarchic set up impeached though one wonders if they were friends of the administration, would they refuse their DAP and PDAF allocation? That could buy a lot of anti-establishment publications, support a couple of strikes, fund not quite a few Pnoy and Uncle Sam bonfire-ready effigies, anti-US demonstrations with angry nuns/priests and even increase the ubiquitous hate mongering teach-ins against greedy capitalists. But the Left does have a legitimate gripe; most of the DAP funds went to Departments that are run by staunch pro administration or Liberal Party supporters, possible candidates for 2016 who need all the help they can get.
FOI and BICA
The intelligentsia never fails to remind that as a congressman, the President supported the FOI [Freedom of Information] Bill and the BICA [Budget Impounding Control Act], the very laws that would have prevented the abuses of the DAP and the PDAF.
Our only hope
As the internecine quarrel now threatens the Judiciary's own "pork" or JDF [Judiciary Development Fund], we hope, this Aquino administration dare not imitate Cory's, when she marched on the Senate when it disapproved the extension of the US Bases. For now, all eyes, and hopes, are on the Legislators who should act on a supplemental budget to resume and salvage the Executive's acceleration of infra projects marooned by the Supreme Court's decision. Impeachment or no impeachment, time is running out.