MANILA - Senator Sergio Osmeña III on Wednesday said he was shocked by President Aquino's defiance of the Supreme Court and blamed Palace handlers for the lousy handling of the controversy over the disbursement acceleration program.
Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Osmeña confirmed that Aquino came off as confrontational and disrespectful in his defense of the DAP.
"I was shocked, as a matter of fact, when he said it two days in a row. It was a disrespect of the constitutional arrangement that we have. We have three co-equal branches of government. That is how our democracy has been working. That is how it is supposed to work. Hindi maganda yung ginawa niya," he said.
The senator said the President's defiance of the SC sets a bad example for the Filipino people. "Let me do my thing, too. People start disrespecting the rule of law and that is no good," he said.
Asked what he thought of Malacañang's handling of the DAP controversy, Osmeña said. "Lousy. Really bad."
"In the first place, they could have filed a motion for reconsideration without making such a big deal out of it rather than being confrontational, thinking that they could change the mind of the court. It was a 13-0 decision. so if we are going to be realistic, the court is not going to reverse itself after a 13-0 decision. Even the four appointees of President Aquino voted in the 13-0."
"So, his political handlers were off on that one."
He also described as "childish" President Aquino's call for people to wear yellow or sport yellow ribbons to show their support for the President's position on the DAP.
"That was childish, in the first place. Why? Because a legal decision is not subject to a popularity vote. A referendum cannot overrule the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what is legal or not legal, what is constitutional or not constitutional. There is no higher authority than the Supreme Court. We must learn to respect that," he said.
The Supreme Court earlier declared as unconstitutional parts of the DAP including the cross-border transfer of funds and DAP allocations for new projects not under the General Appropriations Act.
President Aquino, however, challenged the SC ruling and said the DAP benefited the economy.
In the interview, Osmeña said DAP allocations given to legislators were definitely pork barrel funds since it allowed legislators to fund projects outside the GAA.
He described DAP as a "holding tank" or an accounting device that sourced unused funds from many departments, agencies and projects.
"I don't like to use DAP because DAP to me is a neutral device that was used to be the catch-all or the holding tank for many types of funds...The DAP was not rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It was certain transfers to the DAP that were considered unconstitutional," he said.
P10-B DAP GIVEN TO TARLAC
Osmeña believes the impeachment charges against President Aquino will not hold water, adding people will always ascribe good faith to the Chief Executive.
However, he questioned the P10 billion in disbursement acceleration program funds that allegedly went to Tarlac, which is the home province of the President.
Osmeña said P10 billion is a huge amount since only P33 billion was allotted for roadworks under the DAP.
"I am bothered by accusation that says that there was P10 billion DAP for Tarlac alone and it was given to a favorite contractor without public bidding. I think that is almost prima facie proof of corruption," he said.
The senator said he is not questioning the possible use of DAP funds for the comprehensive agrarian reform program, saying landowners who lose lands to the CARP must be paid. "You cannot take private property without just compensation," he said.
He also said he believes Budget Secretary Butch Abad's explanation that no DAP funds were used for the CARP.
The senator confirmed that he received P50 million in DAP allocations, which he used to finance the construction of farm-to-market roads in six regions.
He said he usually asks the Department of Public Works and Highways to give him a list of roads that need repair or rehabilitation that do not have budget.
"Tatakpan ko yan para makumpleto yung highway," he said.
Osmeña said Budget Secretary Butch Abad will be asked to justify the DAP expenditures at tomorrow's Senate hearing on the DAP controversy. First on the list will be the justification for projects that were not included in the General Appropriations Act including cross-border transfers to the Commission on Elections and other agencies.
He also surmised that the reason why Malacanang approved the DAP was because "it was too lazy to craft a supplemental budget."
He pointed out that Congress passed a supplemental budget of over P1 billion after Typhoon Yolanda in just two weeks.
"They could move faster [with DAP]. It is a more efficient way of running things. Unfortunately, the most efficient way of running things is a dictatorship where nobody questions you," he said.
WHY PNOY IS AN AWFUL MANAGER
The senator, who helped in Aquino's campaign in 2010, said he is satisfied with some of the gains made by the President in the past four years. However, he criticized Aquino for failing to make a dent in the country's unemployment and underemployment numbers.
"The anti-corruption campaign has born fruit and the whole world has taken notice of that but the economic program has not really taken off. We have what is known as non-inclusive growth which does not augur well for future years. Industrial sector should be ramped up...Underemployment and unemployment numbers seem stuck at 30-35% and this is unforgivable. So many people are hungry or if they have jobs, they are not earning enough, or are working two days a week. That is unacceptable," he said.
He also backed up his earlier statement that the President is an awful manager, saying that Aquino "appoints the wrong people and he can't get rid of them."
"If he can get rid of them and change them, then okay and you can move on. You have to be a member of the KKK, kaklase, kabarilan, kapartido, and you are assured of a permanent position. I've seen it," he said.
Osmeña also said Aquino does not have a good feedback mechanism, which means the President does not know if his orders are being followed to the letter.
The senator said the President has a cordon sanitaire "who are afraid to tell the truth."
"He seems to get testy if you give him news that he does not like. It is like the bearer of bad news, the messenger who gets shot. Nobody wants to be the messenger...They are all trying to flatter him, saying, wow, the whole world loves you...They are not telling him the agricultural policies are not working, energy policies are not working," he said.
Osmeña said Malacanang should find out the cause of the drop in Aquino's approval ratings especially since the President had maintained very high ratings for three and a half years.
He refused to speculate on what caused the ratings slide. "Usually, it is a series of things. not any one thing."