Aquino to address nation on 'current issues'
MANILA, Philippines - After consecutive weeks of headlines about government spending, President Benigno Aquino III will address the nation on Wednesday night, October 30, to discuss "current issues," Malacañang said.
A media advisory released by the Palace on Wednesday said: "President Aquino will address the nation tonight from Malacanang Palace between 630 and 730 pm on PTV and other stations to discuss current issues."
According to government sources, Aquino will talk about the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the government, as well as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Both have been widely criticized after whistleblowers exposed the massive misuse of the PDAF and lawmakers questioned the DAP's legal basis.
Aquino is expected to defend the DAP, according to one government official. The source said the President will talk about how the government uses it, and "how grossly unfair that it was being compared to PDAF," the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Rappler.
The President already defended DAP during the annual presidential forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) recently. At Focap, Aquino questioned the criticism of the DAP, even arguing this was the stimulus program that "heralded [the] country's economic boom."
Aquino did not hide his disappointment over the media's framing of DAP, saying it has been "unjustly and oddly vilified." He also slammed its comparisons to the PDAF, which he said the government had already stopped issuing.
'Eye on the ball'
In that speech, the President also pointed out the timing of the criticisms, suggesting it was intended to distract the public by some individuals from the main issue of "the audacity with which public officials allegedly stole from the national coffers through [the pork barrel]."
He also urged Filipinos to "keep our eye on the ball."
According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DAP - mainly sourced from savings or unreleased General Appropriation Act (GAA) items, as well as realignment and unprogrammed funds - was designed to ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.
The Aquino administration has been forced to explain details of DAP after questions were raised over millions of pesos released after the impeachment of former chief justice Renato Corona. Critics tagged the release a bribe or incentive, while another former lawmaker, Sen Joker Arroyo, questioned where the funds given to senators came from.
When the Palace announced that the additional cash releases for projects of lawmakers came from DAP, senators started to raise concerns about its constitutionality and the illegal nature of releasing funds without the approval of Congress.
The government has cited the Constitution in defending DAP's legal basis.
Meanwhile, the PDAF took center stage after the Commission on Audit (COA) conducted a special audit covering the years 2007-2009. The misuse of lawmakers' pork barrel in succeeding years – including Aquino's administration – are detailed in the individual audit reports of implementing agencies.
The Department of Justice has since filed plunder complaints with the Ombudsman against those allegedly involved. Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the scam, is accused of conniving with lawmakers to channel their PDAF to her bogus non-governmental organizations in exchange for hefty kickbacks.
The Supreme Court has also suspended the PDAF's release pending petitions against it.
Aquino's address comes after recent ratings show clear public disappointment over perceived widespread corruption in government.
The latest Pulse Asia survey conducted between September 14-27 shows public appreciation of the Aquino administration's anti-corruption campaign dropped at the height of the pork barrel controversy involving Napoles.
It went down 12 percentage points from 59 points in March to 47 points in September.
Majority of the survey respondents also said anti-corruption is now their main national concern, a shift from a June survey that showed their priority concern was inflation.
A separate Social Weather Stations survey also shows a drop in the President's satisfaction ratings from 64% in June to 49% in September. Aquino said he believed the pork barrel scam affected his ratings, even if he was not yet in Malacañang during the years a lot of the corruption happened.
Rumors of internal surveys showing the same trend were denied by the Palace. - Rappler.com
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