MANILA (Mabuhay) – Militant lawmakers and anti-pork barrel groups were not impressed with President Benigno Aquino III’s televised speech Wednesday night defending his administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), with one of them even saying that the President seemed to have “lost touch with reality.”
“Aquino has lost touch with reality and his speech completely misses the point,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares. “The people are angry with the corruption and patronage politics that goes with pork and the DAP.”
Colmenares also said Aquino treads dangerous ground in his insistence that DAP is constitutional and legitimate.
“Realigning appropriations arbitrarily is technical malversation at least and many public officials have gone to prison for spending funds to items other than those appropriated by law,” he said as he renewed his call for Aquino to delete all lump sum provisions in the proposed National Budget for 2014.
In his televised speech — hyped by Malacañang as the first time the President asked networks for airtime to “directly address the Filipino people — Aquino attacked those trying to equate the pork barrel scam with DAP. Without mentioning names, he said personalities involved in the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds are using the DAP issue to divert the public’s attention as well as to smear his administration.
Peachy Bretaña, one of the organizers of Million People March, the first big rally against pork barrel system, said the speech did not address the main issue and concerns of the people.
“For me, he obviously focused only on himself, his reputation (since I read a couple of days back, that based on a Malacañang-funded survey, his ratings dipped sharply), and not on the main issue of the people on pork and corruption,” she said in a text message to GMA News Online on Thursday.
She was referring to a Philippine Star report on a survey allegedly commissioned by the Office of Political Affairs showing Aquino’s approval rating plummeting to 35 percent, a rating 44 percent less than the approval rating he received in a September 14 to 27 Pulse Asia survey. This was denied by Malacañang.
Bretaña said Aquino’s vision is “short-sighted” as he doesn’t seemed concerned about the Filipino people.
“He did not go beyond himself, unfortunately. He did not address the issue of the corrupt pork barrel system. His vision, it turns out, is so short-sighted. Just him and his presidency. He does not care about us, the Filipino in general, long-term,” she said.
Social activist Mae Paner, also known as Juana Change, was likewise disappointed with Aquino’s speech.
“How disappointing that he could only come from one point of view: his view! Did we accuse him of stealing? No! We are saying he used DAP as pork!” said Paner, who supported Aquino in the 2010 elections, in a separate text message.
“While we will hold thieves accountable, we have every right to hold him accountable for his administration’s misuse as well! Is his tuwid na daan as bogus as Napoles bogus NGOs? (It is) time for authentic change,” she added.
“Waste of time”
Anti-pork barrel group, #ScrapThePork Alliance and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-National Capital Region (Bayan-NCR) even called the 10-minute speech as a waste of time.
“It is nothing but a waste of time to all of the Filipinos who waited and hoped for positive developments on the issue of the abolition of the pork barrel system, DAP and other corruption-ridden issues hounding his administration,” said Mark Louie Aquino, the group’s spokesperson, in a statement.
If the ultimate objective of the speech was to save the President’s declining trust rating, he said Aquino failed to achieve it.
“President Aquino surely lost more support from the public as he defended strongly the DAP fund and the President’s Social Fund (PSF). We don’t believe that the President is innocent in the issue of bureaucratic corruption involving the pork barrel system as he continues to enjoy and stand for its continuing existence,” he said.
Mark Louie Aquino also said the Palace failed to pacify the growing clamor against pork barrel and corruption after the President’s national address.
Youth group Anakbayan has a similar sentiment, saying they heard nothing substantial from Aquino’s speech.
“Panay patutsada siya sa mga kalaban tungkol sa pagnanakaw sa pork (barrel) pero pinagtatanggol naman ang sariling pork barrel at ang DAP. Ginamit pa ang pagkamatay ng tatay niya para pabanguhin ang pork. Sa dulo, tuloy pa rin ang pork, tuloy pa rin ang DAP, hindi tatanggalin ang presidential lump sums,” the group said in a separate statement.
Drag ratings down
Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) believes Aquino’s defense of DAP will only further drag his ratings down.
“His untarnished defense of DAP will only ensure the end of his administration. As the President remains dismissive of the growing public clamor to abolish the pork barrel, he must not be surprised of the consequences of his actions,” said Gloria Arellano, national president of Kadamay.
Bayan, Anakbayan and Kadamay said they are preparing a rally on November 13 to be called Kalampagan Kontra Korupsyon, and a nationwide protest on November 30, the 150th birthday of revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio, as they call for an end of the pork barrel system.
Meanwhile, Rep.Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list maintained that the DAP is unconstitutional.
“Magkaugnay ang DAP at PDAF dahil pareho itong pag abuso ng mga nasa kapangyarihan sa pondo ng gobyerno. Ang usapin ng DAP ay ang paggastos ng executive ng pondo ng gobyerno na walang pahintulot ng Kongreso at sa mga projects na hindi nakasaad sa batas – ito ay unconstitutional,” he said.
Zarte also pointed to Aquino’s continued defense of DAP as the reason why his ratings have dropped.
“Bumabagsak ang rating ni Pres Aquino dahil sa kagagawan ng kanyang admin, dahil nalaman at nabisto na ng mamamayan ang hypocrisy ng tuwid na daan slogan,” he said.
But Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento and ruling Liberal Party Secretary General defended Aquino’s speech, saying the President made the right move by refusing to be cowed by those who wanted to use DAP as a coverup for corruption.
“The real issue really is who pocketed public funds. The people should not be misled by machinations by those who were accused of corruption,” Sarmiento said in a text message. (MNS)