[28 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 108 views]

Referencing to a recent movie about a misunderstood villain, Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said that President Benigno Aquino III will try to play like the misinterpreted Maleficent and again defend the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in his fifth state of the nation address this afternoon – but will inevitably fail.

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[30 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 90 views]

As the Executive Department submits the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget today, a progressive lawmaker pledged “longer, stricter, meaner, and more in-depth” congressional deliberations in the following weeks.

“In the past years, we have diligently studied and questioned the proposed national budget during congressional deliberations. But considering the imbroglio over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), wherein we have discovered how the Executive Department cunningly evaded congressional scrutiny, there is a need for us to up the ante,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said Wednesday.

The youth lawmaker said that as early as now, legislators belonging to the Makabayan bloc are preparing “hard-hitting” questions on the 2015 budget by gathering information, data, and documents on how the government is spending the current national budget.

“Aside from scrutinizing the proposed 2015 budget, we need to compel members of the DBCC and heads of departments to report extensively on how the 2014 budget is being spent. We need to make every effort to ensure that anything similar to DAP or the pork barrel is not and will not exist again,” Ridon said.

The legislator revealed that as early as now, the Makabayan bloc is already compiling various documents, including statement of allotment, obligation, and balances (SAOBs), financial and physical reports, and other accountability reports to examine how the national government executed the 2014 budget.

“Reviewing how the government executed the 2014 General Appropriations Act would guide us in scrutinizing the larger 2015 budget,” Ridon said, noting that next year’s proposed budget is P341 billion more than the current P2.265 trillion national budget.

“The government claims that the budget documents are performance-informed. We will see about that. If last year’s budget hearings were already intense, expect more in-depth line of questioning this year. With the knowledge of how DBM and the president were still able to toy with public funds through DAP even under close scrutiny, it is imperative for us to level up the public scrutiny on the proposed budget,” the youth lawmaker added.

Ridon expects that many discussions would revolve around DAP, especially on the topic of savings, unused appropriations, unreleased appropriations, and unobligated appropriations for the past years.

The legislator however emphasized that greater attention would also be given to macroeconomic assumptions, and the details of each and every project, activity, and program.

“Particular attention would also be given to the budget for education, health, housing, peace and the controversial Grassroots Participatory Budgeting,” he added.

“As the second regular session officially opens, Congress would surely be a beehive of activity. Remember that aside from the national budget, we have the impeachment complaints and several pending legislations to deal with,”

“And that is why I ask my colleagues not to act like lethargic and blind minions in the coming days. Prepare for the hearings. Don’t come to plenary sessions just to loiter around. Absence in congressional hearings should be treated as a mortal sin. The Filipino people expects a lot from Congress. Let us not fail them,” Ridon concluded.

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[29 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 92 views]

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon warned of a possible constitutional crisis arising from President Benigno Aquino III’s request for Congress to pass a joint resolution to clarify the definition of certain budgetary terms.

In his fifth state of the nation address (SONA) yesterday, Aquino asked Congress to resolve the conflicts of interpretation arising from the issue on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) through legislation.

“We are calling on the cooperation of Congress for the passage of a Joint Resolution that will bring clarity to the definitions and ideas still being debated upon, and to the other issues that only you in the legislature—as the authors of our laws—can shed light on,” Aquino said in his SONA.

“Aquino’s call on Congress to pass a clarificatory resolution that would enable a change in the definition of such budgetary terms like ‘savings’ is a clear challenge to the Supreme Court’s decision on DAP. The president is overtly asking Congress to legislate his version of the DAP story, in effect urging the Legislature to join forces with the Executive Branch in defying the third branch of government,” Ridon said.

“The president’s pronouncement may spark a constitutional crisis, and is a clear sign of his dictatorial tendencies,” the lawmaker added.

A constitutional crisis is a situation wherein separate branches of government disagree about the extent of each branch’s power, usually arising from a dispute on the interpretation of certain provisions of the Constitution.

On July 1, the Supreme Court declared Aquino’s multibillion DAP as unconstitutional, saying that the Executive branch erred in their definition of “savings.”

“Unreleased appropriations and withdrawn unobligated allotments under the DAP were not savings, and the use of such appropriations contravened Section 25(5), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution,” the SC declared.

The youth lawmaker said that if Congress abides by the President’s request – which is not far from happening – the joint resolution would just be struck down by the Supreme Court, resulting to a spiraling contest of powers between the three branches of government.

A joint resolution passed by both chambers of Congress has the force of law once signed by the president.

“When the SC strikes down that resolution, what will happen next? Aquino’s mindless pronouncements may just have sparked a clash between government branches,” Ridon pointed out.

“By directing Congress to formally legislate the Executive Department’s interpretation of the term ‘savings,’ Aquino is blatantly defying the SC decision. Not only has Aquino committed contempt of court, the president is also inviting a clash between branches of government.

“Instead of uniting the three branches, Aquino – in his thirst for supremacy – has again wielded his feisty tongue to cleave government apart. This is a clear failure of leadership,” Ridon said.

SONA 2014: Director’s cut of DAP defense saga

Meanwhile, Ridon also lambasted Aquino for turning the SONA into a “director’s cut” of his DAP defense saga.

“Sa simula pa lang, DAP na agad ang bukambibig. Hanggang sa matapos, DAP pa rin. When Aquino says the Filipino is worth fighting for, what he really means is that DAP is worth fighting for,” Ridon said.

“Aquino’s fifth SONA was filled with lies and peppered with half-truths. There was no substantive discussion on pressing issues on education, employment, and wages. No mention of priority bills like the FOI. Mere half-truths were uttered with regard to agrarian reform, job generation, and the economy. All in all, Aquino’s fifth SONA is an appeal to emotion – an extended defense of DAP that does not really consider the real state of the Filipino people,” Ridon explained.

“The president’s use of case studies in his SONA reminds us of former President Arroyo’s tricks and gimmicks in past SONAs. Parang kinopya nga ni Noynoy e. Bumenta na ‘yan,” the solon added.

Turning tables

Ridon also slammed the president for turning the tables on critics.

In his SONA, Aquino mentioned “noisy individuals” who “willfully close off their minds and choose to live in their own world and reality.”

“As the transformation of society becomes even more apparent, these people are acting just how we expect them to: their attacks on us are becoming more frequent, more venomous, and more intense. As the benefits of reform become clearer, it becomes more and more difficult for them to succeed in fooling the people, which is why they are sowing doubt and uncertainty. They have become desperate,” Aquino said.

“Excuse me, Mr. President, but it is you who’s living in your own obtuse reality. Your desperation has become so apparent that you even chose to attack your critics during the SONA,” Ridon said, noting that Aquino’s defensive stance is not surprising since he is facing three impeachment cases over DAP.

“Aquino’s fifth SONA might just be his last hurrah. By failing to report on the genuine state of the nation and by further dividing the government that he should be leading, the president is now on his way out of Malacanang,” Ridon concluded.image

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[28 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 105 views]

In just a year, President Benigno Aquino III has already earned several monikers, each representing the president’s failure in several key fields. And youth groups and people’s organizations are set to represent each and every one of these mock titles in the demonstrations in Commonwealth Avenue today.

Invariably called pork barrel king, price hike king, tuition hike king, impunity king, disaster president, and thief executive, Aquino has earned the ire of several sectors of society for his administration’s failure to resolve pertinent issues of the day, and even figuring recently in one of the greatest corruption scandal that rocked the very core of his administration.

Youth groups led by anti-pork barrel alliance YOUTH ACT NOW! march in Commonwealth Avenue today, wielding each and every one of Aquino’s mock titles.

“In YOUTH ACT NOW, we call him the ‘thief executive’ for his central role in inventing and implementing the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). For students who continue to suffer unabatedly from tuition increases, he’s tuition hike king. For the Filipino people who bore the brunt of spiraling prices of basic commodities, he’s price hike king. And for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda and various other calamities – many of whom have yet to recover due to the criminal neglect of the government, he’s disaster president,” said Victor Villanueva, YOUTH ACT NOW spokesperson and national convenor.

“It is apparent that Aquino is the jack of all horse trading, and master of none – except for his mindless minions in Congress,” Villanueva said.

“Even before he goes up that rostrum in Congress this afternoon, we already know that he will again exploit the moment to justify DAP. Outside, the Filipino people – frustrated, disenchanted, and fuming – would be marching on, uninterested in listening to sugarcoated words of a head of state that does not deserve to remain in power,” the youth leader added.

“The DAP unravels the real scope of Aquino’s power over public funds. It clearly shows us how the president can realign and transfer funds already set aside by Congress to programs and projects that he so desires. The DAP issue is not a mere distraction to the fight against pork barrel. Rather, it exposes the wide latitude of control that Aquino possesses and abuses as chief executive. Now, every Filipino can clearly grasp the pure stroke of evil genius that is the presidential pork barrel,” Villanueva said.

 Earlier this month, YOUTH ACT NOW led the filing of impeachment raps against Aquino over DAP, and plunder raps against Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

“Aquino’s allies say that we don’t have the numbers to remove him from office, that having him impeached is ‘wishful thinking.’ But the thousands who march against Aquino today contradicts that statement,” Villanueva said.

“When the people start chanting your name in manifold variations of disgust, when the people start marching for your head, it is time to face the music and resign. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to force you to do so,” Villanueva warned Aquino.image

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[28 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 174 views]

With three impeachment complaints now dangling against President Benigno Aquino III, lawmakers under the Makabayan Coalition are set to attend Aquino’s fifth state of the nation address (SONA) in varying shades of peach, a clear defiance of the chief executive’s call for his supporters to don the “presidential yellow.”

“Peach is the color of the impeachment process. Peach represents the people’s call for Aquino’s removal from office,” quips Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, a member of the Makabayan bloc.

Ridon’s rendition of the “impeachment outfit” is a traditional guayabera in deep peach.

The deep peach hue symbolizes the party-list’s resolve to impeach the president. The four patch pockets in front of the shirt represents Aquino’s four years in power – with no more space in the shirt for two additional patch pockets, just as the chief executive has no right to stay in power for two more years.

The three fine alforza pleats at the back of the guayabera represents the three impeachment complaints against Aquino pending at the House of Representatives, one of which has been endorsed by Ridon himself.

The choice of the guayabera, a type of shirt worn in the Philippines and Latin American countries, is imbued with historical significance. One theory holds that the shirt already has documented existence in the Philippines even prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, who in turn carried the design to Latin American countries, where it remains as one of the most preferred formal wear.

While the origin of the shirt is still vastly disputed, one persistent folklore tells of the story of a poor seamstress who sewed large patch pockets onto her peasant husband’s shirts to enable him to carry home guavas from nearby fields.

“The humble beginnings of the guayabera reflects our group’s steadfast connection with the Filipino people,” Ridon said, remarking that the shirt – which was custom-made by tailors in Kamuning Market – costs less than Php1,500, a far cry from the expensive designer pieces usually worn by attendees of the annual SONA.

Guayabera

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[24 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 118 views]

Stop claiming that DAP funds came from savings, solon tells Abad

 

“What savings?”

This is the question posed by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon as the Senate conducted its hearing on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) today.

“Secretary Butch Abad and Senate President Franklin Drilon have both apparently overlooked what the Supreme Court said about the claim that DAP came from savings. In so many words, the SC clearly defined how and when public funds can be considered savings and why DAP funds cannot be considered as savings,” Ridon said.

During the Senate hearing, Abad confirmed that P237.5 billion were set aside by DBM for DAP, while P167 billion worth of projects were proposed for the said mechanism, and P144.3 billion was eventually released. Abad repeatedly told the Senate that the DAP funds were sourced from ‘savings.’

However, Rep. Ridon pointed out that in the SC decision on DAP, the high court said, “Unreleased appropriations and withdrawn unobligated allotments under the DAP were not savings, and the use of such appropriations contravened Section 25(5), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.

“The SC decision is as clear as day. The Executive has withdrawn funds and discontinued GAA-listed projects illegally to fund DAP. Secretary Abad, repeating the word ‘savings’ over and over and over will not change that fact,” the youth solon – who earlier filed plunder raps against the budget secretary – added.

 “This is the same reason why Abad and Drilon’s comparison of DAP to the disbursement programs of past administrations does not hold water. In past administrations, the funds used were savings and not withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations,” Ridon explained.

 Drilon’s ‘nombra’ argument confirms Aquino’s liability

Meanwhile, Rep. Ridon said that Sen. Drilon’s argument that legislators only “nominated” projects for DAP – which Sec. Abad confirmed – only establishes the fact that DAP was created and executed by none other than the Executive Department.

“This is the very reason why Malacañang simply cannot pass the blame solely to legislators. If there were indeed DAP funds embezzled by certain legislators, as some quarters claim, they could not have done it alone. In such a scenario, it is highly probable that the Palace – DBM at the very least – would have acted in collaboration with probable unscrupulous lawmakers to malverse public funds,” Ridon said.

“Narinig na po natin sa paulit-ulit na pagsasabi ni Sen. Drilon na tanging pag-‘nombra’ lamang ang ginagawa ng mga mambabatas. Pinalalakas lamang ng argumentong ito ang katotohanang ang Ehekutibo, partikular sina Sec. Abad at Pangulong Aquino, ang pangunahing dapat managot sa isyung ito,” the legislator added.

Ridon also said that he was not surprised at how the Senate President acted during the hearing on DAP. “Of course, Drilon would defend DAP to the best of his abilities. E makakuha ba naman siya sa DAP ng P450 milyon para sa Jalaur Dam nang hindi dumadaan sa GAA, hindi nakapagtataka na todo-depensa si Senate President.

Underspending is Aquino admin’s fault

“Secretary Abad repeated the argument that DAP was necessary to fast-track public spending, following consecutive quarters of underspending. But Abad did not disclose the rest of the story: that it is also the administration’s fault why government has been severely underspending in the early part of Aquino’s term as president,” Ridon said.

“Kumbaga po, sinasabi ng DBM na para daw sa mabilis ng paglabas ng pondo ang DAP, pero ang totoo, sila rin naman ang nagpabagal nito,” Ridon said.

“What can be gleaned from the Senate hearing is this simple fact: that the Executive clearly usurped the congressional power of the purse and toyed with billions of public funds with impunity, using underspending as a cover for their criminal acts,” Ridon said.

Abad testimony in Senate bolstered impeachment bid

The legislator also said that Abad’s testimony in the Senate only made the arguments in the pending impeachment complaints “stronger.”

On Tuesday, Ridon endorsed the second impeachment complaint filed against Aquino in the House of Representatives over DAP.

Ridon told the budget secretary: “Secretary Abad, repeating a lie a thousand times – even on live television – cannot make it a truth. Why don’t you just call a spade a spade, and admit liability over DAP?”

Supplemental complaint vs. Abad

The youth representative disclosed that his group, along with Youth Act Now, will file a supplemental complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman tomorrow against Sec. Abad, to add 116 counts of technical malversation to the charge of plunder that they have filed a few weeks ago.

“Abad clearly committed technical malversation. From his Senate testimony, we can clearly see that he engineered the illegal program, and authorized the transfer of funds. We need to hold him accountable for this,” Ridon ended.###