This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.
We all know from experience that many politicians juggle people’s funds to satisfy their own vested interests, but I still cringed when Harry Roque, former spokesperson of Rodrigo Duterte, admitted in a video recording that Congress does not even liquidate the P1.6 billion extraordinary and miscellaneous fund allotted to it. All Congress has to do is to simply sign a certification that the funds have been received.
Roque, of course, is coming to the defense of Vice President Sara Duterte who was stripped by the House of Representatives of P650 million worth of confidential funds she had sought for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd), under the proposed P5.768-trillion budget for 2024.
Roque has opened the doors of Congress for us to peek into how our hard-earned taxes are being distributed by these gatekeepers like candies: who gets none and who gets more.
We also know that he would resort to everything, including burning the House and everything in it to serve his master. Such is the nature of an attack dog. The public is well aware of how Congress uses or misuses public funds, but by laying it all out in full view of Filipinos and the international community, Roque is shaking down a vital government institution that he used to get his candies from.
With Roque as your friend, who needs an enemy?
I would have applauded Roque if his intention was to expose shenanigans in Congress and stand bravely to fight them. But no, he’s doing it out of blind loyalty.
He asked: “Why did [House Speaker Martin Romualdez] take out Sara’s confidential funds, but not that of the President’s [Ferdinand Marcos Jr.] more than P2-billion confidential funds?” Answering his own question, Roque quipped: “Is it because they’re cousins, or 2028?” – insinuating that the move to strip Sara of the gargantuan wherewithal was politically motivated, describing it as “Bini-Binay ‘nyo agad.” This is in reference to how then-vice president Jejomar Binay was subjected to exposés as well as intrigues by his political enemies in the last two years of his term, costing him his presidential bid.
Former president Duterte also defended his daughter Sara by saying that the requested funds are to be used for various seminars and laying the groundwork for the curriculum return of the Reserve Officers’ Training Course. Ironically, these lame and ridiculous excuses, like that of Roque’s, could further incriminate the Vice President.
A House coup?
But Roque may not wait that long if the prophecy of my sources in Congress proved to be true.
Rumors are slithering in the cavernous halls of Congress that the Duterte faction could spring a coup which could unseat Romualdez as Speaker and thereafter result in the impeachment of Marcos Jr. himself.
Those wishing to overthrow the status quo through political machinations are banking on several issues which this administration is having its hands full in containing, foremost of which are corruption and inflation. This early, it is bruited about that consolidation through horse trading is quietly being made by both factions gearing up for a bigger political skirmish later on.
Of course, these are just conjectures, but with the volatility of our political landscape now, anything could happen.
Other than sheer popularity, does Sara have what it takes to become president?
It is true that honesty is an esoteric concept as far as the Filipino electorate is concerned, but they, too, react with disgust when shown even the slightest shade of malfeasance.
Romualdez’s move against Sara could have been prompted by the storm of criticism that rained down on the Vice President, who, in 2022, spent P125 million in confidential funds in just 11 days, as confirmed by the Commission on Audit.
It was congresswoman France Castro who unearthed the anomaly when Sara requested for P650 million in confidential funds for the OVP and the DepEd during the deliberations of the proposed 2024 General Appropriations Act. It was also found out that, during her three-year stint as Davao City mayor, she also spent some P2.6 billion in confidential funds. Documents showed that the Davao City government set aside funds for such expenses over the past seven years, reaching an annual expenditure of P460 million since 2020. The amount surpasses the confidential spending of even the most affluent cities in the country.
There was also this accusation – which Sara denied – that she resorted to the use of ghost employees to empty the city coffers when she was mayor. The allegation was that she made it appear that 11,246 contract workers were on the city payroll, with 10 to 12 ghost employees receiving salaries ranging from P5,000 to P7,000 a month. In 2014 alone, according to self-confessed Davao Death Squad hitman Edgar Matobato who admitted to being paid as a ghost employee himself, Davao City Hall ghost employees received a total of P708 million of public money.
Former actor and Quezon City Councilor Roderick Paulate had been convicted of graft over the falsification of job contracts of no more than a hundred non-existing workers. Sara’s critics are now saying that the law must be applied as well to the sitting Vice President and DepEd Secretary. Sara’s political enemies could use these “weapons” to charge her with graft and corruption, if not plunder.
ICC and Duterte’s dark humor
There is also this perception that Sara and her father are pro-China, when majority of Filipinos abhor the fact that the communist nation is claiming territories that fall within our country’s exclusive economic zone. Her critics point out her total disregard of the Filipino people’s sensibilities when she expressed a desire for cooperation between the Philippines and China, “especially in the field of education and youth,” just when China’s Coast Guard was driving away Filipino fishermen from the West Philippine Sea.
Whoever Sara’s political rival may be has a mine of valid issues to raise against her, even as she continues to dodge controversies, relying solely on her father’s popularity.
Sara has positioned herself to the right with her desire to use confidential funds to filter out communists in the academe. The supreme irony here is that there is public perception that she and her father had long ago turned Davao City into a rest-and-recreation (R&R) destination for the New People’s Army. By her pronouncements and actions, she may be subconsciously aligning herself with the likes of Kim Jong-un. Fortunately for our country, she may not be ready to become one through the democratic process, the route taken by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
Lest anybody forget, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is investigating her, her father, and a number of others, for crimes against humanity. Fascists come to power through ringing rhetoric. But Sara is wanting in chic to express her thoughts in English or Tagalog, most probably even in Bisaya.
Her father may have talked in grunts and gestures, but he is a class by himself. He has a message that resonated with some people, titillating them with his promise to rid the country of all drugs and all forms of criminality. By now, more and more Filipinos are realizing all too late that tactics like this have plunged the country into a river of blood.
Sara does not have her father’s dark humor either. Even if she did, I wonder how she would deliver the joke? – Rappler.com
Val A. Villanueva is a veteran business journalist. He was a former business editor of the Philippine Star and the Gokongwei-owned Manila Times. For comments, suggestions email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.