Tuwid na daan: When honesty shouldn't just be the policy

Posted at 07/24/14 12:15 AM

MANILA - Benigno Aquino III ran and won as president in 2010 on an anti-corruption campaign.

With just two years left in his term, political observers, however, believe the chief executive has a long way to go before he delivers on that campaign promise.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2013, Aquino said, "Saan po kaya kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha ang mga kawani sa ahensyang ito?"

It was more of a threat than a question.

In that speech, the President named three agencies that fell short of the administration's anti-corruption drive: the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the Bureau of Immigration (BI), and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

A year later, these three agencies would have new heads.

Fighting corruption has been Aquino's battlecry since the 2010 campaign, brandishing the slogan "kung walang kurap, walang mahirap."

Under his presidency, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was charged with and detained on election charges and plunder.

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was impeached and forced to resign over a questionable plea bargain deal, and Chief Justice Renato Corona was also impeached and subsequently charged with tax evasion.

Just last month, three opposition senators -- Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. -- were charged with and detained for plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam.

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the campaign is on track.

"Dapat din sigurong banggitin na ngayon lang nangyari na tatlong nakaupong senador ang nabasahan ng sakdal. Meron ding tayong record na sa bawat linggo, may sinasampahang kaso ng tax evader o kaya smuggler," he said.

The Janet Lim Napoles pork barrel scam, involving billions of pesos from the pork barrel of lawmakers, is considered among the biggest corruption scams ever exposed.


It was so huge such that the controversy is being traced all the way to Malacañang.

Three Cabinet members have consistently been linked to the scam: Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, and TESDA director general Joel Villanueva.

So far, no ally has been indicted before the Sandiganbayan.

"Pilit na pilit na sinasalok sa pinakamalalim na balon yung pangalang Florencio Abad dahil siguro dun sa pagkaakala na pag dinawit ito ay pwede na ring mapuwingan ang Pangulo," Coloma said.

But allegations of selective accountability against Aquino reached a new high after he refused to let go of Abad for an ever bigger controversy -- the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Abad is the main proponent of the DAP, which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Aquino has repeatedly defended the P140-billion DAP, 9 percent of which were released to fund choice projects of lawmakers.

There are allegations funds through DAP were dangled before senators during the Corona impeachment trial.

But Aquino said the DAP was never plundered nor squandered, and was created for a good purpose -- to fire up the economy.

Shortly after the high court struck down the DAP, Aquino announced the administration would file a motion for reconsideration.

But that's not all he said.

"Ang panawagan natin sa Korte Suprema: Huwag ninyo naman sana kaming hadlangan. Hindi ba dapat kasama namin kayo sa repormang ito?" Aquino said.

Aquino anchored his insistence on DAP's legality on an administrative code, while the high court couched its arguments on its interpretation of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

As senator, Aquino filed a bill clipping then President Arroyo's powers to impound funds for savings to become her largesse for her pet projects.


As president, Aquino feels DAP is inconsistent with that.

Former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, an economist, and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones didn't think that the list of DAP projects released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) satisfied the need for transparency.

"A lot of lump sums. Where did this P1.9 billion go?" Diokno said.

"The listing does not necessarily mean the projects exist or were finished. This is exactly what I keep on saying, that the Commission on Audit (COA) has to verify," Briones said.

Aquino's anti-corruption record so far has caused critics to say he is being selective and vindictive towards his enemies, while going slow and soft on his allies.

"I think the President has to seriously consider how his Cabinet members are performing," said political analyst Prospero de Vera.

"Yung mensahe niya na ipapahuli nya ang mga corrupt eh hanggang dun lang siguro sa hindi niya kapartido at hindi niya kaibigan," UP political science Professor Jean Franco.

The DAP papers show Aquino and Abad authorizing the DAP themselves, with no signature from Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa under whose office all documents for the President are usually cleared.

An impeachment complaint has been filed with the House of Representatives against Aquino, and Malacañang said it is up to lawmakers to find merit.


It is a fact that an impeachment case is political in nature, and the administration is perceived to wield control over the majority in Congress.

But while corruption has yet to soil Aquino directly, critics think this is not enough.

Unless and until he goes after his own allies linked to the scandal, he merely enables the corruption further.

"A president being honest is not enough because it must be accompanied by very serious managerial exercise of selecting only people with probity and integrity," de Vera said.

"Without a sustained approach, without an institutional approach to corruption, no president, even if he's a saint, can actually make a difference in corruption," Franco said.