By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Progressive partylist groups in the House of Representatives voted ‘no’ to the 2012 appropriations bill, saying that the national budget is “anti-poor” and that it reveals “government neglect and the absence of change.”
“Mr. Speaker I cannot in my conscience vote in favor of a bill, which prioritizes foreign debt, dole out programs, bloated intelligence funds, and dwindling allocations for social services. It is a budget that does not serve the fundamental needs of our people and instead makes use of ineffective measures like the Conditional Cash Transfers and Public-Private Partnerships,” Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino said as he explained his ‘no’ vote.
With a vote of 198-26 with a single abstention, the proposed P1.816-trillion ($42.2 billion) 2012 national budget was approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives last Tuesday, October 11 despite the criticisms it earlier faced for its significant cuts on social services such as in education and in health.
In a report, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said this year is the “earliest ever approval” of a national budget from the House of Representatives, attributing it to the lawmakers high confidence in President Benigno S. Aquino III’s leadership. But Minority Leader and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said they were not given sufficient time to submit their amendments because the final version of the 2012 budget was distributed to their office on Tuesday.
The approved budget of the House of Representatives would now be sent to the Senate for their deliberation and, consequently, a bicameral committee for the approval of the final version of the 2012 budget.
“House Bill 5023 further entrenches the interests of big local and foreign business interests at the expense of social services and job generation for the poor and marginalized,” said Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus said.
Youth and students groups, for one, have been at the forefront of protest actions against the budget cuts on state colleges and universities. After the Aquino administration has significantly reduced the budget for state universities and colleges last year, the 2012 appropriations approved only $517.59 million, reducing further by $13.57 million last year’s allotment.
Gabriela-NCR, meanwhile, has staged a protest action on Thursday, in front of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, one of the government’s special hospitals in Metro Manila that will have a zero increase in their Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses. To show their rage, pregnant women who joined the protest action bared their stomachs with a slogan that says, “No to Budget Cuts on Health Services.
‘Sadly, as result of Aquino’s non-prioritization of the concerns of pregnant as well as newborn moms, our poor women and their children continuously experience overcrowding and lacking of maternal health services in this hospital,” Cora Agovida, spokesperson of Gabriela-NCR, said.
Instead of providing social services to the people, De Jesus said, the 2012 budget has allocated more for Public-Private Partnerships, forergn debt servicing and military spending.
Palatino said the 2012 budget will “disempower the grassroots” instead of providing “substantial investments in human resources and the welfare needs of the poor.”
He emphasized the need to re-channel the budget for conditional cash transfers, public-private partnerships and intelligence funds to make social services more accessible to the people. “That is the change our budget needs. Instead, what is being given is ‘loose change’ to barely meet what our basic social services truly need to properly function.”
“It insults the poor who are told to accept and even express gratitude to the petty cash to be distributed by the government,” Palatino said, adding that the features of CCT is a remnant of the previous Arroyo administration and should be rectified not intensified under Aquino.
“From beginning to end of the 2012 budget deliberations, GWP is firm in its stand that CCT will not alleviate poverty. In fact, it perpetuates poverty because a big chunk of our nation’s resources are diverted from programs that will truly address the root causes of poverty such as landlessness and joblessness. The P 39.4 billion budget allocated for CCT could have been more effective if it was realigned to social services such as housing, education and health,” the Gabriela solon added.
Palatino said they would submit necessary and crucial amendments. De Jesus, on the other hand, said they would also submit a proposal to increase allocations for the rebuilding of condemned housing tenements, proper implementation of the universal kinder program, and full implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.
“This is the second year that the Aquino II administration has proposed an anti-poor budget. It is our responsibility to uphold the interests of our constituents, the women from marginalized sectors of society. I therefore vote NO to HB 5023,” De Jesus concluded.