A political balloon has been flown and everybody should shoot it down–promptly and decisively. The headline story in the Philippine Star disclosed a statement by deputy presidential spokesperson Anthony Golez that Malacañang contemplates extending an already questionable declaration of a nationwide state of calamity for at least one year.
There are quite a few governance implications in declaring a nationwide state of calamity, particulary for at least one year. First, it allows the national and local governments throughout the country–including those in areas without calamity–to draw from their calamity and contingency funds. Second, it allows the executive department, particularly the President, to have an excuse to transfer funds from other budgeted items and funds under her care (virtually most of the national budget plus non-budget funds) to the calamity funds. Third, it allows the executive department, local governments, and other government agencies involved in relief and rehabilitation to shortcut procurement rules and anti-corruption measures–all in the name of past, present, and future disasters. Fourth, the declaration allows the use of the military and police in enforcing a more stringent “peace and order”, such as the “forced evacuation” of people from places designated as areas prone to natural and man-made disasters (example: rebel-influenced barangays). Fifth, in an election period, the temptation is simply too great to use the easily-accessed calamity funds for electioneering purposes. Fifth, a year is beyond June 30, 2010: is there something that Malacañang knows that we don’t?
The freeing of so much money for non-existent calamities have an implication for the 2010 elections. Is the administration panicking in not having a saleable presidential candidate? Or, is it because of the strong possibility that an unsympathetic Noynoy Aquino may well win the presidential contest and prove the vulnerability of the sandcastle that is the GMA’s political machine?
The 2010 elections are right there in the front of the minds of all incumbent GMA allies who will be running. The calamity funds will be seen by them as manna from Malacañang. Thus, GMA hopes to try to rally the traditional politicians behind her preferred presidential candidate.
The unfettered declaration of a state of calamity is a political decision, not a governance decision. Somebody is still wishing mightily to turn the Ondoy disaster into a political goldmine.