Did you know that at least P55 billion ($1.260 B) or around 38 percent of public funds that went to the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) presented serious environmental risks?
This question begs to be answered after the public came to know of the latest satisfaction rating survey on President Noynoy Aquino’s performance. While the Aquino government received a huge dip in the overall public satisfaction (from +45 in the first quarter this year to just +29 by the end of June) that many attributed to the building DAP controversy, it got a highest rating in his performance in environmental protection with a +46.
If the public looked closer at the devil in the DAP’s details alone, they will realize how wrong their perception of Aquino’s environmental governance is.
DAP funds went straight to known controversial projects. The Jalaur Mega Dam, a pet project of staunch administration ally Senate President Franklin Drilon, received P450 million ($10.31 M) despite scientific investigations revealing it to have significant geological, biodiversity and socio-economic risks, including the displacement of 17,000 indigenous Tumandok people.
Meanwhile, the solid waste disposal project of the MMDA, which received P230 million ($5.27 M) from DAP, was questioned in 2013 by the Commission on Audit for irregular processes and procedures, which included ‘ghost trips’ of dump trucks that reported garbage collection runs where there is none.
Substantial amounts of DAP funds were used to ‘hostage’ important projects and programs – that is, dependent on the discretion of the President and his men. For instance, disaster risk management projects received around P24 billion ($549.6 M) from DAP, but why were these important programs not integrated in the national budget in the first place?
Now we are seeing the consequence of projects elected through the patronage politics of DAP: scientists and other personnel of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) weather prediction and hazard warning systems in Project NOAH and DREAM stopped receiving their salaries after the Supreme Court declared DAP as partially unconstitutional.
But the biggest environmental crime here is the unaccountable lump-sum nature of the majority of these DAP projects. Virtually all of these projects did not even undergo public scrutiny at least through the budget deliberations of Congress. How can we know if these measures are appropriate to the country’s strategic needs and policy standards? Where are the accounting and evaluations of these projects?
We have no idea, for instance, if the appropriations for the Commission on Higher Education contributed to the mandates of the Environmental Education Act, or if the funds received by the Philippine Coast Guard actually went to build their technical capacities to protect and conserve marine wildlife and resources.
To top it off, we have P19.23 billion ($440.37 M) in unspecified lump sum appropriations for local projects and programs, given to local government units, line agencies, and government-owned and controlled corporations. Imagine if that huge sum went instead to environmental protection and disaster and climate resiliency.
Such is bureaucrat capitalism at work. Amado Guerrero described bureaucrat capitalists as landlords and comprador big businessmen who serve as ‘local managers’ of imperialist interests and who ‘build up or expand their wealth through the exercise of political power.’
Through DAP and the other still extant pork barrel funds, the bureaucrat capitalist Aquino regime systematically diverted billions in people’s funds to enrich their pet projects. This fiscal dictatorship ensures the unswerving loyalty of the majority of traditional politicians, pushing through anti-people and anti-environment policies such as economic charter change, the return of US military bases, and mining liberalization.
The political crisis caused by the DAP controversies did not only expose the empty rhetoric of Aquino’s ‘tuwid na daan.’ It also concretely demonstrated how the problem of bureaucrat capitalism is not just a crime of stealing people’s money, but most importantly part and parcel of a repressive, exploitative economic and political system where the moneyed few benefit, the impoverished many suffer, and the environment becomes ravaged.