POSTSCRIPT / July 13, 2014 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Circling the wagons, Cabinet had to clap

SUSPEND ABAD!: With the Supreme Court having ruled that the Disbursement Acceleration Program created and managed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad violated the Constitution, it is a wonder President Noynoy Aquino has not preventively suspended him.

Preventive suspension is necessary because the strategically located Budget Secretary must be denied the opportunity to tamper with DAP records and intimidate or influence witnesses to DAP/budget irregularities.

The President has taken a solemn oath to defend the Constitution and to execute the law. If he persists on coddling Abad, the President could be liable at least for obstruction of justice or opening himself to charges of abetting criminality or even of having conspired with Abad.

But the President does not, or refuses to, see that point? Or is scared to act?

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WHY THEY CLAPPED: The President has demonstrated time and again his bullheadedness after he makes up his mind to protect his close associates. He may now be beyond criminal suits, but crimes already co-committed with others could hound him after his term expires in 2016.

At one point he was quoted by his spokesman as taking full responsibility for the actions of his subordinates pertaining to DAP.

That protective stance is understandable. Having authorized selected Cabinet alter egos to think and act for him, it would be unseemly for him to disown them when they get into trouble.

When he rejected Abad’s resignation the other day, his Cabinet members circling the wagons applauded (except for Vice President Jojo Binay).

They knew that with the continuous slide of the Aquino regime, they could one day be similarly situated — and would expect the boss to protect or cover up for them.

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SCRIPTED: That scripted episode in the Cabinet zarzuela was nothing but a resignation for show with a prearranged rejection. The problem with theatrics, especially when crudely executed, is that it lacks credibility as state propaganda.

It won’t be surprising if an HONEST survey would show that eight out of every 10 respondents who saw the coverage of that event would describe it as contrived. How could it help repair the damaged public perception of the Aquino-Abad tandem?

To sum up the bad taste that it left, we recall what we said in Postscript last July 8:

“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.” Visit: http://manilamail.com/archive/2014jul/14jul08/

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TRILLANES: I almost hurled the remote at the TV yesterday when mutineer-turned-senator Antonio Trillanes ran out of things to say and kept repeating ad nauseam his claim that Abad and Aquino did not commit graft because they did not steal DAP funds.

How I wished Sen. Miriam Santiago or somebody who knew the law were there to lecture the stiff soldier that it is not necessary for an official to steal or benefit materially from a transaction to commit graft.

It is still graft if it can be proved that the action was grossly or manifestly disadvantageous to the government. It is superfluous to prove that the official profited from it. Besides, the Supreme Court only said DAP was unconstitutional and did not allocated guilt.

Looking back, instead of collecting questionable allowances for his alleged travels (while in detention!), Trillanes should have spent time and money studying the law in his cell.

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THANK GMA: Talking of DAP as a stimulus for development, there are many analyses saying that the country’s remarkable growth is not so much the fruits of Aquino’s governance as a result of the adroit economic management by the previous Arroyo administration.

Somehow, the same message sounds a bit more credible when a foreign authority says it. Here is one from Financial Times‘ David Pilling allaying anxiety over possible adverse effects of the closing in 2016 of President Aquino’s term.

The analyst said Mr. Aquino is not exactly the key to the stability of the 6-plus percent economic gains of the Philippines. (Many of the major infrastructure being rushed or inaugurated by him are actually big-ticket projects carried over from the previous regime.)

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OFW INFLOW: Pilling, a British expert on the Asian economy, said, “In truth, some of the macro-economic improvements have been the fruit of policy changes outside his (Aquino’s) administration, particularly at the central bank (Banko Sentral ng PIlipinas).

He added: “Although his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was deeply unpopular and accused of overseeing a corrupt administration, much of the improvement in economic fundamentals can be dated to her government.”

Pilling noted that Aquino economic policies did not primarily drive the macroeconomic improvements marked by the debt and investment upgrades. But Malacañang makes a big thing of the upgrades although unable to show trickle-down benefits to the masses.

He cited overseas Filipino workers’ remittances and strong domestic demand that insulate the country from downturns of external economies. Filipinos abroad send about $25 billion yearly, a big boost to the purchasing power of their families.

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SWEET SPOT: Pilling said the Philippines is entering what he calls a “demographic sweet spot” driven by the large number of young people and their expected productivity in the labor force. Compared to the older economies, the median age of Filipinos is much lower.

The Star story by Camille Diola that took off Friday from Pilling’s analysis said that while projections indicate that the economy will continue to grow beyond this administration — some even expect faster than China — foreign observers are alarmed by the high poverty rate plaguing the nation.

The Asian Development Bank said that the challenge is to translate “solid economic growth into poverty reduction by generating more and better jobs.” In its 2014 outlook report, the ADB said: “Reflecting the lack of good jobs, the poverty rate was 25.2 percent in 2012, only a small improvement on 26.3 percent in 2009.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 13, 2014)

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