POSTSCRIPT / July 8, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Why is P-Noy afraid to fire DAP’s author?

SUSPEND HIM!: Since Budget Secretary Florencio Abad refuses to resign and President Noynoy Aquino cannot seem to muster the will to fire him, one alternative is for the Chief Executive to suspend him preventively.

Preventive suspension of Abad should have been ordered soon after the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision last week that substantial elements of the Disbursement Acceleration Program of Malacañang are unconstitutional.

As head of the Bureau of Budget and Management who sold his DAP invention to the President and micro-managed the illegal program, Abad should be the first to be dismissed and charged with graft or plunder

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PROTECT RECORDS: Immediately, Abad should be denied the opportunity to tamper with the records and influence potential witnesses.

We are talking of billions in public funds, voluminous official records, and an entire Cabinet department operating as the grand central of all disbursements, including DAP and other pork barrel funds that have been declared unconstitutional.

Aside from opening Abad to suits, the scandal has raised the specter of the President’s possible impeachment or, failing that, the filing of criminal charges after he steps down in 2016 and loses his immunity.

Although arising from the same set of facts, however, impeachment is a numbers game entirely different from the criminal prosecution of Abad.

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PLUCK HIM OUT: The demand of both critics and supporters of the President for the ouster of Abad reminds us of the plucking out of an errant eye as advocated in the Gospel:

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven….’

“‘If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away…. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.’”

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DAMNING SECRETS: The President’s refusal to kick out Abad cannot be explained by a dubious claim that his long-time friend from Batanes is indispensable to the Aquino program of government.

Surely there are many others who can do a better job as budget secretary.

One plausible explanation for Abad’s being untouchable is that, by now, he knows too many secrets and may even hold a trove of documents that could damn the President.

That, or the fact that the two pals plunged into DAP with their pants off – and now do not know how to get out of the water, increasingly getting hot, with everybody watching.

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AQUINO’S OK: During the DAP hearings, the Supreme Court was able to collect numerous vital documents bearing the signature of Benigno S. Aquino III.

His written approval of questionable disbursements is reportedly more damning than the routine “OK” scribbled by then President Gloria Arroyo in the margin of the ministerial PCSO memo needed to release Sweepstakes intelligence funds.

In addition, responsible officers of the Commission on Audit had testified that every release of DAP funds was covered by the written approval of the President.

It seems somebody with an insider’s foresight made sure that his actions were protected by President Aquino’s approval on record.

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BYPASS: The plot thickens as reports filter out of the Palace that there was a turf war and some compartmentalization when Abad was laying the basis for his DAP masterpiece.

Star reporter Delon Porcalla said that then presidential chief legal counsel Eduardo de Mesa knew nothing about the creation of the DAP in 2011. The adviser said he was not consulted by Abad, who is also a lawyer.

De Mesa was later transferred to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, and was succeeded in January 2013 by incumbent legal adviser Benjamin Caguioa, Aquino’s classmate at the Ateneo.

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SAMAR VS BALAY: De Mesa belongs to the so-called Samar group in the Cabinet. He is identified with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who Porcalla said was kept out of the loop regarding the plan to realign funds impounded from various agencies.

Abad, on the other hand, is a close friend of Aquino and a Liberal Party stalwart. He is with the Balay group headed by Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

Porcalla quoted Palace insiders as saying that while Ochoa was made to appear on paper that he was given copies of DAP communications, Abad actually bypassed him and “hand-carried” them to Aquino in late 2011.

Insiders theorized that the President allowed the factions to operate separately as some form of check and balance.

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KEEPING SECRETS: All official matters meant for the eyes of the Chief Executive must pass the Executive Secretary, but DAP, illegal as it was, appeared to have been a deep secret that Abad shared only with the President.

Sources told Porcalla that Ochoa learned about the DAP only from the President himself when the latter showed him a copy of Abad’s letter.

The spending program illegally created outside the budget was exposed, inadvertently, when Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said in a speech that he and other senators were given P50 million each to vote for conviction of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Rushing to react, Abad said the millions came from DAP — about which nobody knew at the time. The revelation triggered searching questions and incriminating answers from a defensive Abad.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 8, 2014)

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