Akbayan Reps, 19 Others Flip-Flop, Sign Resolution Supporting CCT Program

MANILA — In a privilege speech on September 23, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said there is no hard evidence, here and abroad, that the Conditional Cash Transfer program has brought “people out of poverty.” He added that the CCT is “a coordinated strategy of pressure by external agencies, namely the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank.”

However, on October 12 Akbayan pushed for a House resolution that endorses the CCT. Akbayan’s House Resolution 529 stipulates that the “CCT is a viable and effective tool to reach the poorest of the poor provided that it is properly enforced.” The said House resolution provides for the creation of a ‘special oversight committee’ that is tasked to “monitor the implementation of the CCT program and ensure that corrective measures are undertaken to reform said program.”

What happened in the next few days might explain the reason behind their “sudden” change of heart.

On October 15, Cavite Rep. Jose Emilio Abaya, chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, said Akbayan would receive a P4.05 billion ($94 million) fund from the Public Works Department’s P110.6-billion ($2.572 billion) budget. The letter that provides for the allocation of the said fund in favor of Akbayan was reportedly signed by Public Works Sec. Rogelio Singson an hour before the Appropriations Committee concluded its review of the department’s budget. Manila Standard Today reported that it was Akbayan Rep. Kaka Bag-ao who lobbied for the fund, which would purportedly be used in providing support services to agrarian reform beneficiaries, agricultural credit, and initial capitalization for new beneficiaries.

The national daily also reported that hours before Public Works Sec. Rogelio Singson approved the allocation to Akbayan, Bag-ao and Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, authors of House Resolution 529, “were seen around the session hall gathering signatures supporting the P21.9-billion ($509 million) budget” for CCT. Nineteen other members of the Lower House who just the day before signed a manifesto opposing the CCT, but signed House Resolution 529 are:

1. DIWA Rep. Emmeline Aglipay,
2. Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara,
3. Senior Citizens partylist Rep. Godofredo Arquiza,
4. Senior Citizens partylist Rep. David Kho,
5. North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco,
6. Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco,
7. A Teacher partylist Rep. Julieta Cortuna,
8. A Teacher partylist Rep. Mariano Piamonte Jr.,
9. San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito,
10. Kasangga partylist Rep. Teodorico Haresco,
11. An Waray partylist Rep. Neil Benedict Montejo,
12. Agham partylist Rep. Angelo Palmones,
13. Surigao del Sur Rep. Philip Pichay,
14. Coop-Naatco partylist Rep. Jose Ping-Ay,
15. Cebu Rep. Gabriel Quisumbing,
16. Abante Mindanao partylist Rep. Maximo Rodriguez,
17. PBA partylist Rep. Mark Aeron Sambar,
18. Cagayan Rep. Randolph Ting, and
19. Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said poor peasants would not benefit from the P4 billion ( $94 million) fund given to Akbayan, reminding the party-list group that agrarian reform communities remain subservient to the dictates of big landlords and foreign agribusiness on the kind of crops to be planted in these areas.

“Representatives of Akbayan Partylist are fooling millions of farmers across the country when they claimed that the P4 billion infrastructure fund is meant to support new agrarian reform beneficiaries under the bankrupt Carper regime,” the peasant organization said, “There is also no land reform to speak of under Carper.”

Willy Marbella, deputy secretary general of KMP, said the fund is a “cash prize” for Akbayan’s support for President Benigno S. Aquino’s presidency and for acting as the “fourth communications group of Malacañang in the House of Representatives.” Marbella said Akbayan’s sudden support for the CCT is P4 billion worth of “loyalty and patronage.”

“Is P4 billion plus several government positions the price for supporting the CCT?” Anakbayan spokesperson Charisse Bañez said, referring to key cabinet positions that have been given to Akbayan officials such as Etta Rosales, who has been appointed as chair of the Commission on Human Rights and Joel Rocamorra, who now heads the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

Banez said that Akbayan’s turn around is nothing but “transactional politics.”

Migrante Middle East coordinator John Monterona said Bello and the other 19 members of the House of Representatives who flip- flopped in their position toward the CCT seem to have acted “on what is beneficial to their own group, such as getting P50 million ($1.16 million) in pork barrel funds and more” in exchange for sacrificing the public interest.

Monterona said overseas Filipino workers are against the CCT because it is “a band-aid solution” being resorted to by the government “rather than squarely addressing the root causes of the high poverty incidence.” Bulatlat.com

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