‘The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process is given charge of P569.64 million ($13.2 million), a strangely huge amount when it is not an implementing agency. It has no regular staffing, yet it claims to be implementing a multi-million project covering 970 villages.’
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
In the wake of senate investigations into the 2004 electoral fraud, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) called for the immediate resignation of a cabinet official of the Aquino administration after it was revealed that she used public funds to support the presidential campaign of former president and currently Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Bayan demanded that the head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) Teresita “Ging” Deles resigns or be removed from her post by President Benigno Aquino III. Bayan also called for the abolition of the Opapp which Deles heads.
During last joint hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee and the committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation last October 18, OPPAP consultant Ansari Alonto said he and Deles went around Metro Manila to campaign for Arroyo in 2004. Alonto was also then a director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and a member of the Mindanao State University Board of Regents.
Deles served as Arroyo’s peace adviser until she resigned along with the so-called “Hyatt 10” in 2005. She returned to her post when Aquino assumed office in 2010.
Alonto said that immediately before the polls from May 7 to May 10, he and Deles went around Metro Manila campaigning for Arroyo because she was losing against her closest rival for the presidency, deceased actor Fernando Poe Jr.. Poe was reportedly leading Arroyo in the Muslim areas, hence the necessity to campaign for her.
Alonto said Deles gave him funds for the campaign; he called them “miscellaneous funds.” He also told the media afterwards that he was the one who suggested that they recruit another popular actor Robin Padilla in their campaign. Deles reportedly handled the logistical aspects of the work. Alonto added that he is unable to give an estimate how much funds of the OPPAP had been spent for Arroyo’s campaign.
When asked by Senator Francis Escudero if Opapp funds were used to campaign for Arroyo, Alonto answered, “Oo binigyan n’ya (Deles) ako ng konting panggastos.” (Yes, Deles gave me some funds for my expenses.)
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said that from Alonto’s testimony, Deles may be liable for misuse of public funds.
“That’s enough reason for her to quit her post or be removed by President Aquino. He has, after all, said he would uncover the anomalies of the past administration. There should be no exceptions. Even his cabinet officials who previously worked for GMA should not be exempted from accountability,” he said.
Reyes also said the Opapp should also be abolished because it serves no real function or purpose and that there are already existing peace panels for the negotiations with the MILF and NDFP.
“These offices can function even without an Opapp. It’s is just another redundant layer of bureaucracy, the funds of which can be used for activities outside the peace process. Moreover, Opapp’s overall track record apparently does not show any significant contribution to the advancement of peace talks with the MILF and NDFP,” Reyes said.
Pamana over peace talks
The Opapp’s main task and mandate is to ” coordinate, and integrate the implementation of the comprehensive peace process.”
In its website, the Opapp declares that its efforts “are anchored on the Aquino administration’s National Security Policy focused on governance; delivery of basic services; economic reconstruction and sustainable development; and security sector reform.”
Despite the main mandate, however, the Opapp clearly puts priority on other concerns and not the peace process or peace talks.
For 2012, Opapp stands to receive P569.64 million ($13.2 million) in funds. Included here is the P329 million ($ 7.65 million) Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) project which Opapp claims is a program for “peace and development”.
According to reports posted on Opapp’s website , its P329 million ($7.65 million) budget is part of the government’s P1.9 billion ($46 million ) fund allocation for the Pamana program for 2012 carried by three other government agencies. A big bulk of the budget forms part of the Peace and Development Fund (PDF) to be given as a grant to Pamana barangays from various conflict-affected provinces under Pillar 2, in which P300,000 (US$6,977) per barangay is allocated for community-driven peace building and development interventions.
Reyes pointed out that the Pamana project, much like the Conditional Cash Transfer program, is essentially a counter-insurgency program masquerading as a peace and development program.
Its implementation goes hand in hand with the AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan internal security plan,” Reyes said. “It is strange that Opapp is given charge of such a huge amount considering that it is not an implementing agency. It does not even have regular staffing, yet it claims to be implementing a multi-million project covering 970 barangays,” he said.
Open Opapp books to scrutiny
It took only three hours last September for the House of Representatives to approve Opapp’s budget. Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya sponsored the agency’s proposed budget which is mainly divided for two concerns: P 240.29 million ($ 5.58 million) for regular appropriations, including maintenance and operating expenses and personal services and P 329.34 million ($7.65 million) for the Pamana project which the Aquino administration claims to be its program and framework for peace and development.
Even during the budget deliberations, questions were already raised regarding the Opapp’s budget and how it will be utilized. Lawmakers questioned how Deles failed to explain how the Pamana will use its funds.
Opapp is in-charge of this Peace and Development Fund for 970 barangays, which are mostly peace agreement areas, and amount to a total of P 291 million ($ 6.76 million) Budget for monitoring and evaluation, transparency and accountability mechanisms, and other logistical expenses of Opapp as the oversight agency for Pamana was also allocated with P 38 million ($883 thousand), completing Opapp’s budget.
Lawmakers and human rights organizations alike questioned the laxity in regulations governing Pamana’s fund releases. According to the Opapp itself, it is implementing the program through a community-driven development approach in which people are given control over development decisions – on how they want to use the funds they receive. This so-called CDD approach is also what’s being used by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in its implementation of the CCT scheme and the Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS).