SONA 2013
Latest Stories

‘Daang matuwid’ faces serious test

Sona IV comes on heels of P10B pork scam


SECURITY CHECK A K-9 dog and its trainer check the premises of the legislative complex in Quezon City a day before President Aquino’s address to the nation. ARNOLD ALMACEN

As he delivers  his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, President Aquino’s “daang matuwid” (straight path) policy against corruption is under close scrutiny in the wake of allegations that transportation officials tried to extort $30 million (about P1.3 billion) from a Czech train supplier and that bogus NGOs funneled P10 billion in pork barrel into ghost projects.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said appointees of Aquino had been accused by a European ambassador of the extortion attempt for the capacity expansion and modernization of MRT 3, the commuter train system along Edsa that is suffering from passenger congestion due to a limited supply of coaches.

“The DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) controversy is the most serious since the people accused by the Czech ambassador are appointees of the administration and not insignificant ones. We don’t want to end up with a pure President surrounded by dirt and slime,” Bello, an ally of the President, said in a text message.

Josef Rychtar, Czech ambassador to the Philippines, has accused DOTC officials, led by MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol, of demanding $30 million from Inekon. The Czech company was reportedly blacklisted after rejecting the bribe demand.

The ambassador said the extortion attempt was made when Manuel Roxas II, now interior secretary, was the DOTC head. His handpicked officials in the department have been retained by his replacement, Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya. Both Roxas and Abaya are high-ranking officials of the ruling Liberal Party.

Abaya announced on Friday that his office was investigating the matter and that Inekon had not been blacklisted.

Before news of the $30-million extortion attempt broke out, a bigger scandal came to light.

The Inquirer reported Janet Lim-Napoles’ alleged P10-billion pork barrel racket over the past 10 years involving five senators, 23 members of the House of Representatives and more than a dozen fake NGOs, and ghost projects.

Clamor for abolition

ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said that for the first time in the past three years, the clamor for the abolition of the pork barrel had reached a crescendo that even the President could not ignore.

“(T)he P10-billion pork barrel scam is the ultimate test case for daang matuwid as an anticorruption campaign. Will P-Noy ensure a thorough investigation that spares no one, or will this be an exercise in scapegoating, damage control and selective demolition of political opponents?” Tinio said in a text message to the Inquirer.

The party-list lawmaker said the abolition of the pork barrel, formally known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), would be the lasting legacy of daang matuwid. “Otherwise, it will just be another anticorruption showcase that ultimately leaves institutionalized corruption and patronage intact,” Tinio said.

Each senator is allotted P200 million and a member of the House P70 million in PDAF yearly for their pet projects.

Tinio said Aquino’s initial reaction to calls for the abolition of PDAF had “exposed the limits” of his anticorruption campaign which he kicked off to a rousing applause when he took office in July 2010.

“Evidently, he’s unwilling to go as far as dismantling the system of patronage politics at the root of corruption in government. No wonder, since the Aquino administration has shown that it is no less adept at manipulating government resources, including PDAF and the CCT (conditional cash transfer), for expanding the Liberal Party base,” Tinio said.

Not enough

Bello said a conviction of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has languished in detention but has succeeded in parrying legal efforts to jail her, was not enough.

“I think the administration is determined to convict GMA, but the judicial system is what is holding things up. But the pork barrel scam shows you have to really push deeper into the system to root out corruption and not be satisfied with just getting people at the top like GMA,” the Akbayan lawmaker said.

The President’s other allies downplayed the slew of news involving corruption in the past few weeks.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the daang matuwid mantra he helped craft for the presidential campaign in 2010 had not lost its appeal.

“There is a lot of noise out there but the trust and approval ratings of P-Noy and his administration remain in the very high category. Watch out for the latest SWS (Social Weather Stations) ratings. Our people are discerning enough to sift through all this confusing jumble of allegations,” Abad said.

He said daang matuwid was fundamental to all the social, economic and political reforms that the administration was pursuing.

Abad noted that the corruption charges against DOTC officials were “allegations that still need to be investigated.”

Still relevant

Sen. Sergio R. Osmeña III said daang matuwid was more relevant than ever.

“In the past administration, the scams like Napoles, MWSS, DBP loans and Senate budget would never have come to light. The whistle-blowers would have been too scared because they know that a cover-up would [be the end result]. Under P-Noy, people have been emboldened to expose wrongdoings,” Osmeña said.

Sen. Francis Escudero said the President “has remained true and steadfast with his campaign. Simply put, our battle versus graft and corruption is not a simple one and cannot be totally erased overnight. It’s a work in progress and P-Noy is the best chance we have in gaining headway and achieving this elusive dream.”

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said the President’s anticorruption campaign had already taken root in health, social services and education, “as shown by the greater funds available and devoted to the people and which they can see and feel.”

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said the President was sticking to his vision. “I still think the person or the President still walks the path.”

The President’s speech is ready, but the lawmakers who will be hearing his message in the flesh have their own great expectations on what he will tackle when he faces the country Monday.

Allies and critics alike want to hear him to continue to discuss corruption, which has always been a theme in many of his speeches.

In the Sona, the President lists his accomplishments, lays down his plans for the next year, and points to the direction he wants the administration to take.

Bello said he hoped Aquino would talk about the “continuing corruption in the middle and lower levels of government.”

He also expressed hope that Aquino would discuss the alleged sexual exploitation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the hands of embassy and labor officials to ensure that something would be done about it and to show that the problems of the workers abroad were in his sights. Bello was the one who made the allegations public.

He said he would like to hear the President tackle ways to narrow the rich-poor gap and the failure to make economic progress trickle down to the grassroots.

Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said the President should admit that after three years, his anticorruption campaign was no different from the path treaded by his predecessor. He should also take to task his officials involved in unscrupulous activities.

She also wanted him to say that he would put a stop to all Charter change initiatives, rethink the privatization of public utilities and basic services, and ensure proper housing for the poor.

Ilagan said she would also like to hear the President say that he would go after Jovito Palparan, the retired military official implicated in the disappearance of activists, and that he would push for lower water and electricity rates.

Another ally, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, believed that the President would push for a new mining bill that would raise tax revenues from mining firms.



No specific threats to Aquino’s SONA so far, say police

Metro cops all set for SONA; MMDA enforces traffic rerouting

3 years of rising economic returns, diminishing hairline

Commonwealth Avenue partly closed on Monday

Metro cops all set for SONA; MMDA enforces traffic rerouting

Catholic bishops: ‘Do more for the poor’


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

SONA 2013

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Benigno Aquino III , Congress , daang matuwid , governance , Government , Philippines , pork scam , Sona

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  2. Chinese lawyers say they were tortured by police
  3. Hair salon’s Kim Jong Un poster riles embassy
  4. Why college grads end up in the PNP
  5. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  6. Town, DENR play tug-of-war over crocodile
  7. Five men from Cavite found dead in jeep in Batangas
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  9. Siquijor ‘healer’: For every cure, there’s a plant
  10. Motorcycle race ends in shooting; 1 killed, 6 hurt
  1. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  2. Massage attendant arrested on rape complaint filed by Japanese tourist
  3. ‘Tell no one’ Makati bettor won P250M lotto
  4. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  5. Netizens cry: 6/55 Lotto was rigged
  6. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  7. North Korea uses flamethrower to execute official
  8. ‘King’ Yabut and I: Driver bares Makati dad ‘abuses’
  9. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  10. It was difficult having Japanese blood
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. UP back on top as ‘average’ student aces bar
  5. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  6. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  7. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  8. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  9. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  10. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’


  • Luzon grid power reserve ‘enough’ for Holy Week
  • Pimentel proposes incentives for companies that will hire ex-convicts
  • State seeks guilty verdict for Abalos
  • SBMA execs, 2 others face graft raps
  • Pangasinan beachgoers warned vs jellyfish
  • Sports

  • My ideal weight is 140, declares Pacquiao
  • Freddie Roach: I’m satisfied; Manny Pacquiao did well
  • New-look Azkals tie Qatari side
  • San Miguel Beermen eye No. 2 slot, battle Air21 Express
  • Filipinos yield to Iraqis anew Asian club volley
  • Lifestyle

  • Celebrate Easter Sunday at Buddha-Bar Manila
  • Moriones feast: A slow, steady transformation
  • Weaving ‘palaspas’ a tradition kept alive in Tayabas City
  • Finalists announced for best translated books
  • Summer treat for your aspiring astronomers
  • Entertainment

  • Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels US concert
  • Otaku Summer Jam 2014: Summer’s hottest J-rock/Cosplay event
  • 2NE1 returns to Manila with “All Or Nothing” Tour
  • Gary Valenciano just keeps moving
  • Noisy celeb spews venom, backs off when confronted
  • Business

  • Longer TRO sought on rate hike
  • Make a stylish statement with the all-new Yaris
  • Hearing set in Olarte case
  • BOC sues steel importers
  • BIR continues to miss collection target
  • Technology

  • Tech company: change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Another reason to quit social media this Holy Week: your safety
  • Philippines may watch ‘blood moon’ online
  • Opinion

  • We may never know
  • Couple of things
  • Mommy D’s magic
  • Stop bizarre and bloody Good Friday rituals
  • Holy Week taboos
  • Global Nation

  • No travel restrictions to Middle East amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Measures set against entry of MERS-CoV
  • Japan backs PH in case before UN
  • Las Vegas union starts pickets over wages, benefits
  • Fil-Am Daly City councilor has eye on Superior Court seat
  • Marketplace