Impressions of a Senate hearing

abad solar news

Secretary Abad [Photo source: Solar News]

Fine television drama.

Government is a complex set of interrelationships, and Executive has huge responsibilities.

The cabinet people who appeared are capable and forthright, and they have great respect for the President, and for other members of the cabinet. Do you realize how rare and precious that quality is?

Senator Ejercito asked a few questions then made his preplanned political criticism of DAP, which he would have made no matter what Mr. Abad said. He was not interested in facts, only making a UNA statement.

Senator Trillanes was a small presence. I expected more. Same with Senator Legarda.

Senator Poe missed a chance to shine. She went off the mainstream and did not pull out a profound conclusion. Little impact.

Senator Drilon WAS impressive. He knew where he was going, was animated at leading Secretary Abad down that path, and formed a strong conclusion: the Supreme Court is out of touch. I’ve never seen Senator Drilon so animated.

If President Aquino’s unconstitutional acts are criminal, and his entire cabinet aids and abets the crime, then all presidents and cabinet officials since Cory Aquino’s days are criminal.

The Supreme Court must pull off a masterful opinion on the Motion for Reconsideration or risk being categorized as clowns of little pragmatic understanding, vision or expression.

I wish I were a lawyer. Does the Constitution really intend that Executive acts done in the best interest of the Philippines be barred due to finely read legalistic interpretations? That is, the Constitution is properly interpreted to STOP good works and even go so far as to declare them criminal? Or shouldn’t the Constitution be interpreted in its whole sense, to permit acts that clearly were to the Nation’s benefit, but proscribe future steps that would not so strain constitutional interpretation?

Senator Binay is singularly the most offensive person I’ve seen in some time, successfully impugning the integrity of senior cabinet officials by demanding they take an oath, interrupting them frequently, and virtually sneering at their answers. That said, her basic challenge was good. Why were projects in the budget if they were going to be summarily cancelled so the money could go elsewhere?

The answer was, of course, when budgeted, those proposing the projects could not foresee problems (like that it would not be possible to buy the land where a lighthouse was to go). I fear Senator Binay does not grasp big pictures and obsesses over details. She does not listen well. A budding autocrat.

Senator Escudero did well as chairman. Composed, thoughtful. Asking pertinent, well-expressed questions. Rescuing Senator Binay when she got confrontational with people deserving respect. Alas, she took no hint and returned to being disrespectful.

Did I say already that she is very irritating?

Senator Marcos made a good point that the SOURCES of DAP are as important as the expenditures. He requested a list of the projects from which savings were realized.

Senator Marcos needs a different hair style. I am afraid that if he becomes President, he will follow in the footsteps of North Korea’s thuggish dictator and require that we all adopt his style of cut.

The television channel switched to the Palace Press Conference providing thankful relief from Senator Binay’s incessant, rudely put, undereducated queries. Secretary Coloma’s monotone droning quickly put me into a lengthy slumber.

Senator Bam Aquino asked pertinent questions regarding bad faith and good faith. He drew out an impassioned statement from Secretary Abad that makes clear the absurdity of the Supreme Court’s ruling that past acts benefitting the nation are inherently of bad faith and criminal. Good results born of bad faith? Huh?

Senator Escudero is very good. He is already working on identifying projects affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling so Congress has the information to act quickly to reinstate projects at risk. It is unusual to witness such future-thinking hereabouts. There is a lot of ipso post facto thinking. hahaha

Senator Recto complimented Secretary Abad for his many improvements to the budgetary process. Wham, in one statement, he puts everything in perspective. On the other hand, he has the same penchant as Senator Binay to question Executive’s case-by-case decisions (questioning a 30 billion capital infusion into BSP versus investing in improving health care). I guess only he knows what is best.

3:30. Secretary Abad is getting tired. Six hours non-stop grilling with no break for lunch. Is torture allowed in the Philippines?

Senator Osmena is slow-speaking and old in appearance, despite the black hair dye, but cuts right to the sharp point on who within the Administration “vets” the new spending projects. Senator Abad answers well, “the cluster groups mainly”.

Senator Osamena’s question about why some cities get funds brings out the fact that there are criteria, such as incidence of poverty, used throughout the budgeting activities. To that point, it is clear that Secretary Abad has established professional management disciplines within the Administration. Management by objectives, measurable criteria, clear outcomes before funding is granted. These are disciplines that ought to be praised rather than condemned.

Senator Osmena wraps up with a question about why Malampaya funds are sitting unused when there is an energy crisis and they might be well applied to solve some of those problems. He requests information to that point. Very sharp old guy.

I missed Senator Guingona’s part. He must have been first up.

Senators Drilon, Escudero and Aquino rise in my eyes. Escudero, in particular. Senators Poe and Recto fall. Senator Binay falls to the realm of disgrace, joining the likes of Senators Enrile, Sotto, Estrada and Revilla. More likely to cause problems than solve them.

I’d be content with an Escudero presidential candidacy. He’s good.

The future of the Philippines looks good when political players and plunderers are removed from the scene.

36 Responses to “Impressions of a Senate hearing”
  1. andrewlim8 says:

    Joe, hop over to Raissa’s latest piece. I have been a long time commenter, but she is really amazing. That post is a gem.

    The constitution is alive, and I am so glad non-lawyers are getting involved. Shame on these laywers, law students and “constitutionalists” who do not see the bigger picture.

    • Joe America says:

      Thanks for the heads up, I read the piece. It indeed is a sterling case, well researched and nicely laid out. I particularly like three of her conclusions: we are seeing, in the contentiousness, good government in action, the need for FOI is crucial, and immediate jailing of wayward officials is needed. Bingo. Her ideas are so much more refreshing and patriotic than those of the impeachment lunatics, FOI is pretty much a done deal, and I think great pressure is being applied for faster court actions. I’d like to see the Ombudsman have an ETHICAL mandate as well as a legal one, and when officials are engaged in activities that question their service to the people, and the people’s trust in them, they are IMMEDIATELY suspended from office pending investigation. It should become standard that, when questions arise, officials volunteer to step aside, and failing to do that, would be stepped aside by the Ombudsman. Develop an ethic that service to the nation, and trust in government officials, are more important than an official’s job.

  2. brianitus says:

    Nancy caught your eye, too. She was really into it. Personally, I thought the hearing was an overly long press conference.

    • Joe America says:

      Well, the President has more friends in the Senate than enemies. But I think there were some very unbiased inquiries, particularly from Senators Escudero and Osmena. I think the fact that the panel will review the list of projects put on hold by the Supreme Court ruling, so that supplemental budgeting can be done on those meriting funding, is a very good outcome. So it was more than a press release.

      • Joe America says:

        Also Senator Osmena’s request for information about the Malampaya fund to see if there is a source of money to work on the nation’s energy shortage.

  3. macspeed says:

    true colors seems to appear in Binay actions…what a way to shatter her dreams for upper positions. Arrogance and opposition in time of service is not a good practice. She is now a member, she should exert effort for progress not politicking techniques, did she ever provided a share in current growth of Philippine economy? What have she done till she seated up to this time?

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, there is a gross lack of humility in the lady. It is a tad disturbing when someone of such power has so little regard for others.

    • josephivo says:

      This was very typical behavior when you put an OJT in charge. They think that wisdom is an automatic result of position.

  4. chit navarro says:

    Thank you for this analysis Joe. I thought it was just me feeling so repulsive on Nancy Binay’s line of questioning and her arrogance towards Sec. Abad. Too bad she forgot that she is questioning government procedures in appropriation, budget and spending – not a household where, when you need to repair a toilet, you can just call a plumber / carpenter and have it fixed just like that, And what arrogance in asking for discrepancies in figures when she can not even lay the basis for her source of figures.

    As for Sen. Poe, I was also greatly disappointed on the SGS issue (Societes de Generales Surveillance, her pronunciation for one) when she was pounding on the fact that why fund Customs obligations when they are Customs and are collecting funds for the government. Can’t understand where she was coming from. But that one issue of SGS / Customs is a very valid case of “there is more to the statement than what is simply stated” because the explanation of Sec. Purisima was deeper than what the simple statement of fact.

    Am I glad that the Senate hearing went through before the SONA. It was a show of SMART TEAMWORK on professionalism, efficiency, transparency. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic (responsive too) and Timely. Gives us one solid proof to TRUST IN OUR PRESIDENT.

    • Joe America says:

      I’m not at all versed on SGS/Customs. I was looking for great overall insight from Senator Poe and instead saw a diversion into particulars. Trees, not forest. I’m still looking for Thomas Jefferson to stand up and expound great democratic wisdoms. After the Senate meeting, I think Chiz Escudero comes closest. At least he is practical, looking for ways to solve problems, not create them.

      If esteemed cabinet members can be treated so rudely, how would Senator Binay act toward the powerless?

  5. andrewlim8 says:

    Nancy Binay supposedly got a lot of praise for her performance in this hearing.

    List of those who texted her congratulations:

    1. Erap Estrada and his many children

    2. Ramon Revilla Sr and his many children

    3. CPP-NPA-NDF

    4. Arroyo loyalists

    5. Marcos loyalists

    6. Retired archbishop Oscar “I will oppose everything” Cruz.

    ha ha ha ha ha .

  6. raissa says:

    I enjoyed this Joe.

    Keep it up.

    If anyone tries to kick you out for foreign meddling, tell me. I’ll sponsor your dual citizenship 🙂

  7. Rhiro says:

    The blind leading the blind……..

    The total GAA for the years 2011/2012/2013 was close to Php 5.5 trillion………The total realigned disbursements under the label DAP was PHP 144 billion for the same period. The entire DAP was a PR stunt.

    That is approximately 2.6% of the total proposed GAA for the years 2011/12/13. Without bothering to check I can safely assume that the hard projects that comprised this so called stimulus spending would comprise less that 1% of the total GAA (so called DAP) spending for the three years.

    It would be a huge stretch of the imagination to believe that this so called miracle program was primarily responsible for the growth story for the past three years. An infusion of Php 144 billion is all it took for the economic miracle. The total estimated size of the entire Philippine economy is Php 11 trillion per anum in today’s pesos. Total of Php 144 billion disbursed over three years did the trick.

    Hey fellas I have a bridge overlooking the Manhattan skyline for sale. The views are of the upper east side of midtown Manhattan. Real Cheap

    “While I bow to the Supreme Court’s wisdom, I must say — with all due respect — the decision of Supreme Court on this issue may undo the progress we have achieved so far,” Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” B. Abad said at yesterday’s Senate hearing on the controversial program.

    ‘Mr. Abad, in defending the DAP, insisted that it was used in good faith and that it was “an urgent response to an urgent problem where low government expenditures posed a significant threat to the country’s economic development.”

    “When we launched the DAP, we saw a dramatic improvement in GDP (gross domestic product) growth… Since 2011 when DAP was implemented, GDP growth reached 6.8% in 2012 and 7.2% in 2013. DAP yielded positive results,” Mr. Abad argued. Business World

    The Pinoy government is spreading a lot of bull’s manure….

    • Joe America says:

      Well, perhaps. But I think if I came into government in 2010 and saw all the loopy and corrupt projects in the pipeline, I’d do pretty much what President Aquino did, spend the money on better projects rather than sending it back to treasury. On the quotes I’ve seen, DAP is not credited for the economic growth of the Philippines, but something like 1 percent of the 7 percent growth realized in 2013. And I’d also have to say, if it is such a minor deal, why are people getting so worked up about it?

      For me, DAP is a matter of executive discretionary authority, which I believe should be strong not weak, if we want a strong Philippines. I have a blog in the pipeline about that.

    • josephivo says:

      Careful in comparing apples and oranges. Not all money in the GAA is ‘dynamic’, such as debt payments, salaries of civil servants (soldiers, teachers… included)… Look at discussions in other countries, often small investments in innovation, confidence building, loan guarantees, trade missions… can make a big difference. Listen to the World Bank. Bull’s manure is a necessity for a good harvest is what you suggest, I guess.

  8. RHiro says:

    A little simple math here…… Php 144 billion stimulus package if spent in one year is slightly more than one tenth of one percent of an Php 11 trillion economy……

    But the so called necessary spending from contrived savings was spent over three years obviously diminishing its effectiveness.

    I love the smell of bulls manure in the morning.

    • Joe America says:

      What would you have done coming in as President in 2010 and discovering a lot of projects that were corrupt (irrigation projects) or unwarranted (dredging of a lake and moving the mud from one side to another)? Continue with the projects, return the money to treasury, or invest in other useful projects?

      • R.Hiro says:

        The 2010 budget was not Pinoys budget and he was obviously careful in the disbursement of the same. The dredging project was a foreign assisted project. Now the Pinoy government and Congress had half of 2010 to prepare and appropriate the 2011 budget.

        Stick to the quantitative facts. The slogan DAP was meant to show governments active role in the growth story.. But the fact remains that the amounts intended for hard projects were small. The Phil. budget for hard projects in the GAA amount to barely 8-10% of the budget.

        Adding one thirtieth of one percent to that figure is micro at best. The realignment of the governments budget was due to un-obligated allotments of agencies not ready for quick implementation.

        Please note that the budget is meant for salaries, supplies and maintenance, debt service, Internal Revenue allotments for LGU’s, infrastructure (hard projects)

        The infra backlog forced the government to promote the PPP program which FAILED TO TAKE OF MAINLY BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT WAS NOT READY.

        By the way the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers regularly moves the silt or mud as you call it from the Mississippi river and transfers it to the adjoining land. That is what dredging is all about.

        If we want strong executive discretionary power than switch to a unicameral system and singular political party since there are no such thing as political parties here. It is money based political parties. He who disburses the gold rules.

  9. manuel buencamino says:

    She should change her name to Debby…..Debby Downer

  10. Gerardo Vergara says:

    The President and Secretary Abad should have saved themselves from all this trouble if they had been honest about the DAP money from the very beginning which I believe was used as they explain it now to be (the other problem was when parts of the ‘savings’ were ‘saved’ by somebody who always want a share of the pie, crusts, wrappings et al.)

    The groups pushing for the enactment of the Freedom of Information law must be reminded that Senator Grace Poe said that the law will take effect two (2) years after. Those groups must now demand that it must be effective from day one because we all know how devious minds will work double time, or may be even more, to make more hay while the sun shines.

    • Joe America says:

      You know, I agree with you, Gerardo. I think they were and remain only half-transparent on DAP, and negligent on FOI. I don’t know why, or what they are hiding or afraid of. Friends protecting friends, I suppose, who may have been enjoying the previous “power and favor” rules. We are going through a cultural transition and so there is some soft-shoeing going on to protect some people. Because some people were benefiting in ways that today are out of bounds.

  11. Gerardo Vergara says:

    Lost in writing/correction: parts of the ‘savings’ were ‘saved’ by somebody in the department/agency/office that received it…

  12. josephivo says:

    I did feel so much indignation in the government: “We are the first administration working as professionals for our ‘bosses’, we made so many improvements in the government processes, so many measurable results, rowing upstream all the time…, and know with this DAB you complain that we are not perfect? It is sooooo unfair!!!!. We will fight back!”

    Typical when a burn-out is close. Mr. President relax, give yourself and your cabinet a rest, you will be so much more effective afterwards.

    • Joe America says:

      That is one way to look at it. I took the emotionalism in the reaction to be an indication that they truly believe they were doing the best by the Philippines, and a frustration that they were called on it. But I agree with you that now is the time to work on contingencies in case the Supreme Court sticks with its ruling, and start to form some budget legislation for Congress. Like, the program is dead. Move on.

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