One more term for Aquino? Most likely hundreds of jail terms

by Rigoberto Tiglao on August 14, 2014

That’s not a hyperbole, but a conservative estimate.

President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd’s illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) involved 1,997 SAROs or Special Allotment Release Orders, the documents ordering the National Treasury to release funds for specific programs and projects.

Since the Supreme Court ruled the DAP unconstitutional, each SARO violated Article IV, Section 29 of the Constitution: “No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.” The projects the SAROs Aquino ordered to be financed from the budget were not in any of the budget laws from 2010 to 2013.

Each SARO would be an instance of technical malversation, and for each, Aquino would be charged under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code:

“Any public officer who shall apply any public fund or property under his administration to any public use other than for which such fund or property were appropriated by law… shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from one half to the total of the sum misapplied… “

Prision correccional in its minimum period means a jail term of six months to two years. Not too long, compared with a lifetime sentence for the crime of plunder.

But what if the many people Aquino has wronged filed separate cases for even just one-fourth of the 1,997 SAROs he had ordered issued, and just a fourth of those cases resulted in a guilty verdict? That would be 124 instances of technical malversation, and at the minimum six months jail term for each case, that would mean 62 years in prison. Even Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales would not be able to block that flood of cases against him.

Worse, while many patriots would file cases against Aquino in order to strengthen our rule of law, there would be scores of unscrupulous lawyers who would file cases in order to extort money from him in exchange for dropping the cases.

They would bargain for a lower amount than the law’s penalty that at least one-half of the sum misappropriated be reimbursed to government.

Those familiar with the Sandiganbayan would know that the justices would just love such cases filed at their salas.

Note that the illegal SAROs ordered a total of P147 billion to finance projects and programs not in the appropriations law. Aquino and his clan faces the prospect of becoming totally bankrupt if he even loses a few of the technical malversation cases, and required to pay, as the Revised Penal Code put it, the “fine ranging from one half to the total of the sum misapplied.”

At best, Aquino stands to spend a lot of his time in Sandiganbayan courtrooms as soon as he steps down and loses his immunity from suit.

The decision of the high court in fact didn’t just rule that the DAP was unconstitutional, it said, “proper tribunals must determine the criminal, civil, administrative and other liabilities of its authors, proponents, and implementors.”

If you listened to Abad at the July 24 Senate hearing on the DAP, it was this part of the Supreme Court’s decision stating criminal liability that he and Aquino were raving mad against. You can’t blame them: no one would relish the prospect of jail terms.

My sources, as well as those of Manila Times’ reporters, in fact had claimed that before the Court’s decision on the DAP on July 1, tremendous pressure – even financial pressure at the magnitude of P500 million – was being applied on the justices, not on their decision on its constitutionality, but for them not to mention any criminal liability by its “authors and implementors.”

On the face of it, Aquino’s “motion for reconsideration” filed at the Court to reverse its ruling would seem stupid and useless as it was a unanimous decision. Its real intention, however, is to get the High Court – by hook or by crook – to amend its decision so that Aquino won’t be liable for any criminal prosecution over the DAP.

But the Court can’t rule against past jurisprudence here and elsewhere that rejects the excuse of “good faith” in criminal acts since this is the basic foundation of the justice system. If good faith were a valid excuse, the bulk, or even a hundred percent of trials, would involve determination of good or bad faith, not concrete evidence that a crime was committed.

In fact, a Supreme Court decision in November 2012 dismissed the excuse of “good faith” in a case that has similarities, though on a much smaller scale, to the DAP case.

A town mayor in Leyte in 2001 authorized the “realignment” of four sacks of rice and two boxes of sardines worth P3,400 to starving workers rebuilding houses destroyed by a typhoon. It turned out that the food was from the town’s Supplemental Feeding Program authorized by the Sangguniang Bayan (town council that approves the town’s budget).

The mayor was charged with technical malversation, but appealed that the transfer was done in good faith and that it represented savings.

The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Sandiganbayan finding the mayor guilty and pointed out: “Dura lex sed lex.” (The law may be harsh, but it is the law.) The mayor’s act – no matter how noble, or how minuscule the amount diverted – constitutes the crime of technical malversation because he used the goods for a purpose other than what had been approved under the law.

Similarly, I’m sure a thorough investigation would reveal that DAP’s purpose wasn’t at all “noble,” but was intended to raise bribe money for Congress’ cooperation in removing Chief Justice Renato Corona from office and to amass a slush fund for the 2013 elections.

I was told that Aquino had asked different lawyers about their opinion on the matter in terms of his liability. He was screwed, everyone told him.

This is probably why Aquino was close to crying when he was finishing his 5th SONA speech recently: the realization that he trusted Abad too much and made such a terrible mistake in undertaking the DAP; that he would land in jail when he steps down in 2016; that he would be bankrupted by the financial penalties; and that the best-case scenario is that he would spend most of his time in the hot, cramped courtrooms of the Sandiganbayan.

This is also the reason why he can’t fire Abad, even if people within and outside his camp have asked him to do so: Abad could hit back by claiming he was just ordered by Aquino to implement the DAP.

Aquino’s certain criminal liability explains the desperate tone of the wild statements he has recently been blabbering, and the rumors his propagandists have been circulating:

That he is open to a second term because the people are asking for it – which is the craziest statement he has made so far; he can’t even get enough people to wear his yellow ribbon. His approval ratings are slipping by the day and most Filipinos, tired of the high prices of rice and other commodities, poor infrastructure, inept response to Yolanda, the Zamboanga and Luneta incidents, can’t wait for him to step down. Even those sympathetic to him and believe that he isn’t corrupt are now admitting that he is, indeed, mentally and emotionally incapable of being president.
That Congress, which he controls by a vote of three-fourths of its members, can propose an amendment to the Constitution allowing him a second term – another wacky idea because even if Congress were to do that, the amendment would have to be approved by a plebiscite.
That Vice President Jejomar Binay, the shoo-in for the presidency in 2016 at least at this time, is a bosom friend of the family and will protect him when he steps down. But even Binay can’t stop citizens filing hundreds of technical malversation cases against Aquino.

In the case of former President Gloria Arroyo, Aquino had to scrounge and scrape the barrel to come up with charges against her for only four cases, one of which already has been dropped and the rest obviously based on very flimsy grounds — one involves a sole witness implicated in the Ampatuan massacre. Aquino had to ask his mercenary NGO, Akbayan, as well as the sycophant justice secretary to file the cases.

In Aquino’s case though, the very documents Abad had submitted to the Supreme Court and Senate – Aquino’s memoranda authorizing the DAP and impounding funds authorized by the budget laws and the detailed list of DAP projects – would be the evidence for this president’s crime of technical malversation.

I’ll explain that on Monday, and discuss the liability of the DAP’s architect, the man considered as Aquino’s brain, Florencio Abad.

World Bank: Fix your China ties

by Rigoberto Tiglao on August 12, 2014

Without categorically saying so, the World Bank’s most recent (August 2014) economic update on the Philippines pointed out that China has such a crucial role in Philippine economic development that we should develop a healthy relationship with that superpower.

That can be the only explanation why the World Bank update, for the first time in all its many analysis of the country since the 1970s, devoted several pages to the role of another country in our development. This was in its section entitled, “Special Focus: China’s slowdown and rebalancing — How the Philippines can still benefit.”

Careful not to be seen meddling in our foreign affairs, the World Bank’s ostensible reason for discussing Philippine-China economic links was that after an unprecedented pace over the last three decades, “China’s economic growth has begun to slow down,” which would affect many countries including ours.

Only the obtuse or terribly uninformed, though, would not realize that the more important “slowdown” in the relations between China and the Philippines has been the result of our territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal, especially President Benigno Aquino’s move to file a case against China’s claims in an international court—the first such suit filed against it.

The World Bank’s analysis is the first I’ve read by an international agency on how important China’s economy is for the Philippines.

The study pointed out:

Accounting for just 1.3 percent of our exports between 1978 and 2000, China since 2002 has risen to become among our top five export markets, absorbing P6 billion or 12 percent of our total exports in 2013.

Our exports have shifted from low-value mineral fuels in 1995 to high-value electronic products, and now account for 50 percent of our total exports to China.

Our imports have similarly increased, by an average of 20 percent between 2001 and 2010, and in 2012 China became our second largest import market next to the US. The share of mineral fuels to total imports had reached a high of 91 percent between 1977 and 1978, but declined in recent years that last year, such imports accounted for just 10 percent. Our imports from China are mainly manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment.

“China is fast becoming a major source of foreign tourists for the Philippines,” the World Bank study pointed out. “Tourist arrivals from China increased exponentially from 14,724 in 2000 to 243,137 in 2011. Beginning 2006, it has been one of the top tourism markets for the Philippines, along with Korea, the US, Japan and Australia.

The study’s only reference to our territorial dispute with China is in its discussion of the tourism industry:

“The latest data [May 2013] show that tourist arrivals from China accelerated by 108 percent, despite prevailing territorial disputes. This marked improvement was due to the expansion of flights between China and the Philippines, as well as increased cruise ship calls to the Philippines. The estimated amount of revenues from Chinese tourist arrivals is around $218 million in 2013.”

The only aspect of our relationship with China that is unimportant is its foreign direct investments (FDI), as well as OFW remittances from that country, which are both miniscule.

But we are missing out on the flow of Chinese capital abroad. The low level of Chinese FDI to the Philippines, the study emphasized, is “in contrast to other Asean countries, which have been receiving significant FDI from China.” The highest FDI from China was recorded at $216 million way back in 1998.

‘Between 2009 and 2012”, the study pointed out, “net FDI from China turned negative.” That is, Chinese capital left the country mostly under Aquino’s watch.

The study pointed out opportunities for the country in China in the coming years:

“As China rebalances toward consumption-led growth, the Philippines could expand its export portfolio to China from capital goods and parts to consumer goods. At present, Philippine exports to China are heavily concentrated on capital goods, and electronic parts and components. To take advantage of this opportunity, Philippine exports need to diversify into the production of final goods that will cater to China’s rising consumption requirements,” the World Bank study pointed out.

The World Bank, which seems to have typecast us as a labor-exporting country, even cited opportunities for Overseas Filipino Workers. “Likewise, in the medium term, China’s aging population could provide opportunities for professional and skilled Filipino workers,” it pointed out. “Both jobs in China and outsourced jobs in healthcare, education, information technology, financial services, can be highly demanded.”

What does the World Bank prescribe for us to take advantage of the Chinese market? “The Philippines needs to improve its competitiveness,” it says, and rattles off its usual prescription of lowering costs of business and power, lifting restrictions on foreign ownership etc, etc.

That is its diplomatic way of telling us: Guys, you better fix your ties with China. You just can’t ignore China, it’s a major trading partner.

I’m risking a cyber-mob going after me, since the current administration has successfully stoked the hate flames against China. The level of public discourse on the China issue has gone down to gutter language and racist taunting that modern societies do not undertake anymore. I was surprised that a well-educated classmate of mine from Ateneo has even started calling the Chinese the pejorative “intsik.” On the other side, in China’s much, much bigger social media, Filipinos are becoming hated villains.

Rational voices that try to call for open communications and negotiations with China are shouted down as “traitors” or “anti-Filipino.” I have never seen our level of diplomacy sink so low as it has in the past four years.

Nearly a fourth, or 25 million of Filipinos are poor, and living the most miserable lives. Their number will be growing every year since we do not have a population-control program. We need all the help we can extract from such an economic superpower as China.

Can we just let, as Deng Xiao Ping suggested to Marcos in the 1970s, future generations settle our territorial dispute, maybe when our country has become rich so that we can really buy state-of-the-art naval power to defend our claims, instead of begging the US and even Korea for hand-me-downs?

I don’t know how in a few short years, China has suddenly emerged as our enemy in the East when it was one of our strongest partners since its emergence from its communist past. In the past, we have enjoyed a healthy relationship with China even as we asserted our rights over our land and territories.

The richest Filipino, Henry Sy, now has billions of pesos in investments in three malls in China, and will soon be in the housing market there. Twenty-fifth richest Filipino (going by the Forbes’ listing) Carlos Chan’s Oishi snack foods are becoming ubiquitous in China’s main cities.

A senator had told me, providing data to prove his point, that somebody very influential in Aquino’s Cabinet has been deliberately aggravating our dispute with China over the Spratly islands in order to favor, in a convoluted way, the interests of an Indonesian-controlled firm.

The senator was so certain over his allegation that he even said that this Cabinet official has committed treason. “He should be shot by a firing squad,” he said passionately.

I really don’t know what to make of that claim.

There’s also that other, broader conspiracy theory: the Cabinet official is deliberately driving China away from us and toward Indonesia, home country of a conglomerate he had shepherded into our country.

The horror

August 10, 2014

As a human being I feel I have to add my voice to the civilized world’s wailing, and to its screams of horror and anger against the beheadings by the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”* (ISIS) in its pogrom in Iraq and Syria. The reports on ISIS atrocities don’t seem to be propaganda by [...]

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Garapal: Abad’s DAP loot for Batanes

August 7, 2014

Apologies to my readers who don’t like the use of street lingo, but that was the Filipino word that immediately entered my mind when I read yesterday that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s home province of Batanes, his fiefdom, got P133 million from the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). That made Batanes the third biggest recipient [...]

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Aquino: Liar, inept, or both?

August 3, 2014

Read on, and you yourself judge whether President Aquino is: (a) An inveterate liar, who thinks Filipinos are so gullible he can fool them even at this time when his mask as the saint of democracy’s son has melted in the light of day; or (b) an inept President without the basic mental skills and [...]

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The next firestorm to hit Aquino

August 3, 2014

The most recent blow to the Aquino presidency is the Supreme Court’s declaration that his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional. The next big firestorm that will hit him, and even engulf this administration in political flames, will be the Supreme Court’s decision that his pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is patently unconstitutional. [...]

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Aquino damaged, prostituted our democratic institutions

July 29, 2014

STRIP Benigno S. Aquino 3rd of his daang-matuwid rhetoric, and he emerges as the worst president, along with the dictator Marcos. Both captured or tried to capture our democratic institutions. Both had rhetorical skills and catchy slogans: “This nation will be great again” for Marcos; “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” for Aquino. Marcos abolished or [...]

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Aquino and Abad used DAP funds for 2013 elections

July 27, 2014

It’s really not surprising that senators heartily licked Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s boots in last Friday’s hearing on the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), of which the Liberal Party leader was architect and executor. Three of those senators—sadly the three youngest males, but the most obsequious to Abad – most probably wouldn’t even be in [...]

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A shameless Senate licks Abad’s boots

July 24, 2014

The Senate hearing yesterday where Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was supposed to enlighten our people on what the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was all about turned out to be a bootlicking show. Since the time the DAP was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, we have been waiting for a proper explanation from the executive, [...]

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Nationalize Meralco

July 22, 2014

It’s been a week, and many parts of the National Capital Region and Southern Luzon are still without electricity. And these are supposed to be the country’s most developed areas, which account for 50 percent of our GDP and a third of our population. The company in charge of this area is the country’s biggest [...]

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