PHILIPPINES: Corruption under the Aquino regime and the need for system change

Monday 21 October 2013

Date: 13 October Type: News Source: Bulalat Keywords: corruption, system change

The network of corruption exposed by the pork barrel scam has gone wider and wider. What was supposedly a case of fund misuse, corruption and political patronage involving Janet Lim-Napoles and government officials and legislators during the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has now been exposed as having continued under the current Aquino administration, which won under the campaign banner of “change” and its self-professed “daang matuwid” governance of anti-corruption and moral ascendancy. After the Aquino administration was forced to admit the existence of its own pork barrel creation the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which involved the president’s allies, the Filipino people, who were already calling for the abolition of the pork barrel fund under the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF, became more incensed.

Indeed, the people realized, the tentacles of corruption being facilitated by funds that are being disbursed and spent on the wishes of government officials such as pork barrel, discretionary, un-programmed, intelligence funds and the like extend farther than what was generally expected.

However, the Philippines has reached its own version of an impasse. On one side are the Filipino people demanding for the abolition of pork barrel and discretionary funds, including that of President Aquino’s, and on the other side is the Aquino administration, which has been adamantly defending the pork barrel fund under different names whether PDAF or the DAP and has been stubbornly refusing to give up President Aquino’s own pork barrel funds.

How will the impasse end?

Progressive groups and concerned netizens have been calling for more frequent protest actions until the Aquino administration relents and those guilty of corruption punished. Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who has added his voice to the strong calls for the abolition of the pork barrel fund system, has come up with another course of action to complement protest actions: the people’s initiative.

In this interview, asked about the views of Left political analyst, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle Professor Jose Maria Sison. Professor Jose Maria Sison has not been a mere political observer but has been in the thick of struggles spanning six administrations: the Marcos dictatorship, the Cory Aquino administration, the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations, and the current Aquino administration.

1. Are the plunderers in the pork barrel system limited to those involved in the Napoles case? Why is Aquino pointed to as the pork barrel king? Is he also engaged in plunder? If so, how? Is the corruption of Aquino limited to the pork barrel?

JMS: The plunderers are not limited to those involved in the Napoles case. Napoles and the senators and congressmen who are her accomplices could accomplish their plundering only with the collaboration of executive officials under Aquino, particularly in the theft of Php 10 billion under the so-called Priority Development Assistance Fund .

Aquino is pointed to as the pork barrel king because he has control and sole discretion over huge lump sums of pork barrel amounting to hundreds of billions of pesos. He and his relatives and friends can at will, steal from various types of pork like the special purpose fund, unprogrammed funds, intelligence fund, presidential social fund, Malampaya fund, off budget account, among others. He has been caught with his pants down on the invention of the Disbursement Acceleration Program. He is discovered to have no constitutional peg whatsoever for this racket. He has been disbursing huge amounts of money illegally and criminally.

The corruption of Aquino is not limited to pork barrel. The IMF Direction of Trade no less has found out that smuggling under the Aquino regime is at least three times worse than that during the Estrada and Arroyo regimes and amounts to USD 19 billion per year. The floods have become worse under the Aquino regime because of huge cuts from infrastructure projects. The sister and brother-in-law of Aquino have been exposed for trying to shake down the Czech company Inekon. The biggest tax evaders like Lucio Tan and Eduardo Cojuangco are intimates of Aquino.

2. Aquino controls both houses of Congress by corrupting most of the congressmen and senators, with the use of pork barrel disbursements, like those related to the impeachment and conviction of Corona. It is obvious that Aquino cannot be impeached by the Lower House and tried by the Senate. What can be done to punish Aquino?

JMS: The way to try and punish Aquino now is not by impeachment by the Lower House and trial by the Senate. One way is to charge and try him after he steps down from his office in 2016. Estrada and Arroyo have been similarly charged and tried. Another way is to carry out an Edsa type of uprising as in 1986 and 2001. If the uprising is successful, Aquino and his accomplices can be arrested and tried immediately.

The people’s outrage over the pork barrel corruption can develop into a mass uprising beyond the ability of the government and the yellow media to counter it. The broad masses of the people are already fed up with the years of Aquino manipulation of the mass media, the opinion poll surveys and social media and the use of letter writing brigades and planted comments.

3. What do you think of the proposal of the former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno to the One Million People March Movement to undertake a People’s Initiative and hold a People’s Congress to legislate the abolition of the pork barrel system in accordance with a provision in the 1987 Constitution? JMS: It is an excellent proposal. I can see that the people’s initiative can be joined by millions of people. It has a broad appeal and a has a definite objective of abolishing the pork barrel system through the People’s Congress in accordance with the 1987 Constitution and Republic Act No. 6735, which provides for a system of initiative and referendum.

The people’s initiative has a high potential for becoming a movement for moral regeneration and for system change as envisioned and advocated recently by the peace panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. The leadership of the movement may include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Senator Grace Poe and stalwarts of the mass movement like Dr. Carol Araullo, Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza.

4. Going back to the possibility of overthrowing the Aquino regime, how would the people go about this? Some pundits say that Aquino cannot be ousted and replaced because those in the line of succession are also corrupt like him, like Vice President Binay and Senate President Drilon. How do you ensure having a good administration to replace the corrupt Aquino regime?

JMS: There is no need for using the existing line of succession. Philippine history has shown in 1986 and 2001 that a president can be ousted peacefully by the broad masses of the people who rise in great numbers. The organized forces of the mass uprising must persuade the military and police to respect the right of the people to speak and assemble. The effective leaders of the military and police can be subsequently persuaded to take a position against the regime and withdraw support from it.

They can be trusted by the masses if beforehand they declare that they uphold the principle of civilian supremacy and commit themselves to supporting a council of national unity as the civilian caretaker government in charge of arresting and prosecuting Aquino and his criminal accomplices and ensuring clean and honest elections within six months. The chair and members of the caretaker government can be appointed by a council for moral regeneration arising from the people’s movement against the pork barrel and entire gamut of corruption.

5. If we get rid of the pork barrel system and Aquino and his accomplices, would that be enough to change the rotten social system in the Philippines? What does it take to make a system change truly for the benefit of the people? JMS: Getting rid of the pork barrel system together with Aquino and his accomplices is not enough to change the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system of big compradors and landlords servile to US imperialism. So long as these exploiting classes continue to reign, bureaucrat capitalism or bureaucratic corruption will persist. The workers and peasants must smash the bureaucratic and military machinery of the exploiting classes in order to install the people’s democratic system.

6. Is it possible to have a government that you can cooperate with, short of achieving victory in the people’s war against the ruling system? What do you expect from a government that you can cooperate with? JMS: That government must assert national independence against unequal treaties, agreements and arrangements. It must let the strength of the workers and peasants grow in a democracy. Genuine land reform and national industrialization must be carried out. A national, scientific and mass culture must flourish. The foreign policy must be for peace and development.

7. Why is it that so far there is no such government as you describe? Why is it that such government has not arisen from the peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Manila-based government? JMS: All presidents and regimes since the start of the peace negotiations have been more interested in serving the US and their exploitative class interests, in amassing wealth through corruption, in using military force to suppress the revolutionary movement and in using the peace negotiations to seek the surrender and pacification of the revolutionary forces and people.

8. Is there still a chance that Aquino will show interest in peace negotiations either because he wants to shore himself up politically or because he is simply interested in peace as a noble objective?

JMS: The chance is nil or close to nil. Aquino has been merely interested in preserving and expanding the wealth of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan. He cannot think and act outside of the box of puppetry to the US, satisfying the interests of his fellow big compradors and landlords, plundering the national treasury and overrelying on the use of military force and manipulation of the mass media.

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