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Drilon is a big liar

In all his statements about his share from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) for his anomalous Iloilo Convention Center project in Iloilo City, Senator Franklin M. Drilon has consistently claimed that he got only P100,000,000 for the project.  On July 8, 2014, Drilon issued a press release entitled, “Drilon releases details of his P100-M DAP funds, invites public to scrutinize his DAP availment,” he said the amount was just P100-million. He said the same thing in a press release much earlier, on October 13, 2013, which is entitled, “DAP creation based on President’s power to realign funds.

But this claim is a big lie. And Drilon knew he was lying. That’s because when he first had to make such claim, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had already issued three (3) SAROs, or the Special Allocation Release Order, with a total amount of P300 million that went into the Iloilo Convention Center project. This is confirmed by no less than the DPWH Regional Director, Engr. Wenceslao Leano, in a matrix of fund disbursements for the ICC, a digital copy of which is shown below:

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That these funds covered by the SAROs listed in the matrix were part of the DAP in 2012-2013 are confirmed by no less than Secretary Benjamin Diokno in his letter dated July 23, 2018, shown below:

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This proves me assertion four years ago that Drilon had designed an evil scheme to steal public funds by the hundreds of millions of pesos from the ICC. The design of the ICC as specified by the Megaworld’s architect, W. Coscolluela and Associates, had a budgeted cost of only P200 million. During the Blue Ribbon committee investigation on November 13, 2014, Drilon admitted that the design and specifications for the building were part of the donation made by Megaworld. And the terms and conditions of the Deed of Donation spelled out how much the government was required to put up to fund the construction of the convention center. It was P200 million, no more, no less.

Drilon’s insatiable greed became runaway. He tried to get as much money from DAP. He wasn’t contented with P100-million under SARO No. A-12-01294 dated December 12, 2012. He got another chunk of P50-million under SARO No. A-13-00079 dated January 15, 2013. It only whetted his appetite; he got another P150-million on July 5, 2013 under SARO No. A-13-01134. He attempted to get more and spend more. But the heat became unbearable for the DPWH because of my exposes, and the faucet was shut down.

Drilon had announced during the Dinagyang festival in January 2014 that the ICC was going to cost P1-billion. Apparently, he had programmed the DAP releases to ultimately reach P1-billion. This is the reason why when the DAP faucet was shut down, the ICC was not 100% complete, which is the state it is now in. After spending nearly P750-million for the project, Drilon’s ICC lacks a number of components to truly make it world-class.

Now I am asking Drilon to ask the Filipino people for forgiveness. He was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He tried to grab more than his share of the DAP. He put up deceptive ploys to hide the fact that he got more — much more — than his fellow senators. He should also apologize to his colleagues in the Senate for this deception.

This shouldn’t be unfamiliar territory for Drilon. In June 2005, he goaded and coached then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to face the nation and say, “I am sorry”, in the wake of the “Hello, Garci” scandal. Maybe he can rise on a question of personal and collective privilege on Monday and deliver his own “I am sorry” speech for being a liar and a thief.

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Noynoy, Garin and Abad deserve to rot in jail over Dengvaxia mess

At long last, the Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon has found more than enough basis to seek the prosecution of former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, former DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin and former DBM Secretary Butch Abad for their conspiracy to put the lives of Filipino children at risk with the Dengvaxia mass vaccination program at a cost of P3.5 billion.

Right from the start, I was already convinced about the culpability of these former officials, especially in undermining the Government Procurement Reform Act and related laws, just to roll out this mass vaccination program over the loud protests of experts on dengue.

Everything about the transaction smacks of what we call “lutong makaw”, a Filipino slang for a transaction that was rigged to favor Sanofi Pasteur and ensure that it bags the P3.5 billion contract even before it was given final clearance on the safety and efficacy of Dengvaxia.

Senator Gordon is correct: the bureaucracy moved like an express train, with each move so well coordinated one would think it was a Philharmonic orchestra performing. Even the manner the P3.5 billion was obtained and released through a SARO was unbelievably fast, knowing that the bureaucratic red tape normally would take one year to do that.

When the bureaucracy behaves that way, one can easily conclude the directives go all the way up, and not just at the Cabinet level.

Hopefully, the Ombudsman would pick up from where the Blue Ribbon Committee and redeem itself just as Tanodbayan Conchita Carpio Morales is about to retire. The graft investigators have mountains of evidence to sort out and build an airtight case against these three individuals who have committed the greatest sin against the Filipino people. This is a case that cannot be allowed to fail; the people have been betrayed more than enough.

And justice must be swift. The Ombudsman should elevate the case to the Sandiganbayan within a year. The souls of Filipino children who have died because of Dengvaxia are crying for justice. Noynoy, Janette and Butch should rot in jail for justice to be delivered to the victims.

A giant comeback

The appointment of Janet Garin as DOH secretary completes the comeback of the 1st district political dynasty in the national stage.Janet Garin
It shows the political adroitness of the patriarch, former Congressman Oscar Garin, in jumping from one administration to another.
The Garins have never stayed out of the political loop of every administration for too long.
In 2000, Oca Garin was appointed by Pres. Erap as presidential assistant for Western Visayas. He hesitated. He accepted the appointment sometime in November 2000 or thereabouts. By January 2001, Erap was kicked out from office, leaving Garin drifting in the political ocean.
But true to form, Garin quickly got into the good graces of the Gloria Arroyo administration. Before long, he was appointed as chief of the Philippine Coconut Authority.
Garin was a marked man as far as Liberal Party leader Franklin Drilon was concerned. Drilon regarded him as a mortal enemy. Corruption issues flew thick in Garin’s wake. In 2010, Garin campaigned for Villar. When he saw that the victory of Noynoy was unstoppable, changed colors three days before the elections.
It was not enough to gain him entry into the good graces of the Aquino administration. He was ultimately removed as PCA chairman and once again stayed as a benchwarmer.
That changed, however, in 2012. Drilon embraced Garin to pave the way for a “unification ticket” for the Liberal Party. Garin’s wife and children all ran under the LP banner in 2013 and won. Janet Garin was appointed DOH undersecretary.
And now Janet is DOH secretary. Oca Garin must be wearing a big smile these days. He has once again outmaneuvered everybody, including the grand old man of the Liberal Party in Iloilo, Niel Tupas Sr.
Tupas, who sacrificed greatly for party platform and principles, does not even hold an appointive position.
I am not saying that Dr. Janet Garin is not competent. She is intelligent and capable. She might even make a good DOH secretary.
But the message is that this appointment conveys is that the Aquino administration has embraced traditional politics as a means to survival and strengthen its chances of getting a partymate to succeed H.E. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III on June 30, 2016.

If Mar Roxas wants to be President, he must rebuild his bailiwick

If Mar Roxas wants to be President, he must rebuild his bailiwick

Supporters of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas are excited, and nervous, about his prospects in the 2016 presidential derby. But as the most recent Pulse Asia poll survey showed, he trails front-runner VP Jojo Binay by a mile, and the race is going into the final bend. He is running out of time. If he is serious, and questions are being raised about it in the first place, he must take a second look at his own bailiwick: the Western Visayas region.

A greater disaster than Yolanda

The entire world has seen the devastation that swept through central Philippines eight days ago. The death toll has been estimated by the United Nations at 4,460 as of Friday, and that figure could go higher as more bodies are being washed ashore. Many towns and cities, especially those situated close to the shore, were flattened by super typhoon Yolanda. Hundreds of thousands of victims were left wandering through the rubble, hungry, cold and frightened. So many cadavers still litter the landscape. For the victims, it was like the end of the world had come.

The victims’ plight was worsened because it took the national government almost a week to get its relief operations going. President Noynoy Aquino, stung by criticism in the world media that the relief efforts were moving too slowly, flung the disaster relief machinery to the badly-hit areas where people had gone without food and water for several days. But while the relief operations had begun (aided in large part by the arrival of the American Navy, Canadian military, the Germans, Israelis and other contingents), the distribution of food packs failed to reach everybody. Still a good number of towns complained they had received nothing.

Obviously, the government just went into action without much planning. The President sent his buddy, Mar Roxas, and Voltaire Gazmin, to Tacloban purportedly to assess the situation and make sure things were running smoothly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what happened on the ground. Mar Roxas, perhaps thinking it was now the campaign period for the 2016 Presidency, went around shaking hands and telling people not to worry: help was on its way. Then he posed for the cameras with grandiose-looking gestures. When he left, the typhoon victims could only stare at him. Roxas didn’t bring food and water for them. He only left a message of hope for them, a dream of food and water to come.

That display of incompetence and insensitivity was a crime against the typhoon victims. It characterized the bungling and fumbling reactions of the Aquino administration to the gargantuan problems that faced them. Instead of calling everybody into a huddle, Mr. Aquino sent the likes of Mar Roxas to waddle around like a duck, essentially doing nothing and getting in the way of those trying to help. Mr. Aquino himself broke several days of staying hidden in Malacanang on Thursday night to visit relief goods repacking stations, exhorting volunteers about the need for the bayanihan spirit. Obviously, Mr. Aquino didn’t know enough about how to deal with the situation other than PR stunts like that.

While the relief operations of the foreign governments and the private sector whirred smoothly, that of the government remained to be tentative steps. The entire machinery of government wasn’t even ready to go into overdrive. It’s a good thing the entire world had come to our rescue. And it was heart-warming to see thousands of people contribute cash, food and used clothing for the victims. Without them, the hunger would have driven tens of thousands to death by starvation or disease.

The fumbling hasn’t abated. Mr. Aquino had scheduled a trip to Tacloban today (Saturday). As I tweeted on Friday afternoon, that kind of activity wouldn’t accomplish anything. Mr. Aquino should stay put in Malacanang, calling his Cabinet and other government leaders to a huddle. He needs ideas, suggestions. He should even reach out to the opposition, particularly to political leaders in the badly-hit areas and solicit proposals on how to better carry out the relief operations.

But Mr. Aquino is too proud. It’s a good thing he didn’t blame this one on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But he did blame the local officials for failure to respond quickly, obviously blind to the fact that most officials were still in shock from their own experiences. He also got entangled with a dispute over the casualty figures. Mr. Aquino was displeased when a police general told him that based on the magnitude of the disaster, the death toll could reach 10,000. He insisted it was only 2,000, with 2,500 at the most. It was a useless exercise. It only diverted time and attention from the urgent task at hand: the relief operations.

There’s now a growing public perception Mr. Aquino is being too defensive about the government’s response to the crisis. He is being accused of trying to look for excuses for the lapses than coming up with solutions. That is not totally baseless. One only needs to look at the slow pace of the relief operations. Even the U.N. has expressed frustration and consternation.

Unless Mr. Aquino wakes up from his slumber, it just might happen that he will be labeled as a greater disaster than Yolanda itself. It doesn’t help him that he is surrounded by a bunch of amateurs trying to look like experts. If that happens, his own Presidency would be put at risk, as more and more Filipinos are expressing an anger that could force him to step down.

It’s not enough to be angry, again

We are missing a point in debates about which way the anti-pork rallies are headed. We should not even be having those debates — whether it’s just anti-pork, or it’s straying into “anti-PNoy”.
The people are angry, period. But wait! We need to bring perspective into what is happening.
Is it enough to be angry? Do we just go through another cycle of protests?
I think the turn of events should jolt the Filipino people into wakefulness. The problem is that we easily get lulled into letting our vigilance down. After EDSA, we rode on the crest of a belief that evil has been booted out, and decency will be restored. We put down our guard until Erap’s abuses became intolerable. Then came Gloria. it took so long before we found our collective voice again and propelled PNoy to the Palace in 2010.
Again we went back to sleep, thinking “matuwid” will take us to our destination quickly. And now this.
We must realize that we have civic duties as citizens. We can’t trust government, no matter who leads it, to carry out its work with utmost sincerity and devotion without us constantly riding on its back. The temptations for abuse abound. It is our duty to keep a round-the-clock watch. The people can’t delegate that role to the bureaucracy.

Leadership in a crisis

As the whole of the national capital region and neighboring provinces struggled to stay afloat on Tuesday (Aug. 20), the second day of the great deluge, I began seeing questions on Facebook and Twitter about the whereabouts of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III.

From morning till evening, television networks broadcast footages of wide areas under water and rescue operations being undertaken by volunteers groups, the military and the police. On Monday, several towns and cities in Cavite, Pampanga and Bulacan were inundated, and it was basically each to its own for the LGUs in coping for the crisis.

The entire nation was shocked at the images that assaulted them on media, including the Internet, showing the magnitude of the floods. It was a scene never before seen in the country. In a word, “waterworld” became the common term to describe what had become of the affected areas. There was hardly any place which remained dry, as in not hit by floods. Even the business district, Makati City, submerged.

In the face of this calamity, the absence of the President on national television became more palpable. And this is what triggered a long thread of discussion on Twitter between Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte and several tweeps on the issue. One of those who tweeted quizzically was ABS-CBN reporter RG Cruz (@1RGCruz).

Valte tried to deflect the criticism on the President’s absence with her tweets. She said the President’s absence was not necessary because the agencies involved were doing his job. She got help from several tweeps. For two days, as the floods engulfed the national capital, the people didn’t catch a glimpse of the President, nor did they reassuring words from him

I insisted that a leader must be highly visible during a crisis. I got support from fellow blogger, Pastor Eyriche Cortez (@pastor_ey). But the defenders of P-Noy said the President would be criticized for being epal had he gone out on national media to assure the nation. Pastor Eyriche and I replied: that should have been the least of his worries.

Indeed, why is it that we want to see leaders at the forefront in times of crisis?

John Maxwell said: “A leader’s visible presence during times of crisis inspires confidence and gives others a sense of security.” It might be all about appearances, but in a crisis, that is all that matters. When two aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, New York city mayor Rudy Giuliani set the tone for how to deal with crisis by being on the ground immediately. He took command of the situation, and for the next several days, directed the crisis management team and taking time to console the families of the victims.

The bottom line is that leaders cannot afford to go ‘below radar’ when there is a crisis. He is the rallying point for rescue workers and victims alike. A 5-minute appearance on national television could have gone a long way to assuage the fears of the people. In his case, P-Noy showed up on the third day, and his report on the state of the calamity wasn’t even new. The time for comforting and consoling had long passed.

I watched TV Patrol interview the flood victims, and one of them remarked that the few minutes she had seen the President bolstered her hopes that things would be okay. It validated this view that leaders need to be visible in times of crisis. The President might not be able to stop the floods, but at least he can show the people he is doing all he could.

There was a quote attributed to the President on why he made himself scarce during those two days. He didn’t want, he said, to be blamed if things went wrong. “Kung pumalpak kasi, ako ang sisihin,” he said. What kind of a leadership statement is that? In a crisis, a wrong decision is better than no decision at all. That statement is a give-away on the lack of leadership on his part.

Time and again, it’s been said that it takes a crisis to reveal the character of a leader. P-Noy was tested by this crisis. Unfortunately, he miserably failed.Image