Gabriela slammed the inclusion of huge amounts allotted to pork barrel funds and the Presidential Support Fund, as well as un-programmed funds, which, it said, could be used to perpetuate political patronage and corruption.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Women’s group Gabriela stormed the House of Representatives as the second day of deliberations on the 2014 national budget resumed on Thursday, Aug. 8. Mothers from different urban poor communities protested against what they called as an “anti-people budget.”
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has recently submitted to the House of Representatives the proposed 2014 national budget. The deliberations started on Wednesday, Aug. 7. The proposed 2014 national budget amounted to P2.268-trillion ($51.989 billion), which is higher by 13.1 percent than this year’s budget of P2.006-trillion ($45.983 billion).
The Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) remains critical of Aquino’s bigger 2014 national budget as its representatives hunkered down with other progressive opposition congressmen in rooting out anti-people and wasteful budgetary items.
According to GWP Rep. Emmi De Jesus, since day one of the budget hearings, her office has already found major inconsistencies in the proposed budget lines for social services.
“Despite protests on the pork barrel, the 2014 budget’s biggest defect is the P27 billion ($619 million) allotted pork barrel fund for legislators and the huge Presidential Support Fund. It is so tricky trying to pin down just how much of the taxpayers’ money will Malacañang secretly control and dispense as Aquino’s virtual fund, because this new budget was drafted to tuck hidden amounts and items in various agencies,” De Jesus said.
Also according to GWP, the 2014 proposed national budget also includes the P10.4 billion ($238 million) allotment for demolition of homes of informal settlers in dangers zones and waterways, the P139.9 billion ($3.2 billion) lump sum un-programmed funds as well as the said P27 billion ($619 million) pork barrel funds.
Nere Guerrero, chairwoman of SAMAKANA (Samahan ng Maralitang Kababaihang Nagkakaisa) said the P10.4 billion ($238 million) demolition budget will lead to increased poverty and hunger among the urban poor in Metro Manila. “The big amount of budget allotment to the Conditional Cash Transfer program will be useless because urban poor communities are being demolished. That’s why for us, it is such a waste of money (CCT budget allocation) because the Aquino government still implements anti-people policies such as demolitions of communities.” She added that it would be better if the budget for the CCT program would be allotted to social services for the poor such as health services and education.
According to GWP Rep. Luz Ilagan, for 2014, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program (4Ps or the CCT) has an allotment of P62.6 billion ($1.435 billion). “Based on yearly hikes on the 4Ps budget and the areas chosen by the social welfare department, we discerned that the dole out to the poor is an election tool deployed in vote-rich regions, and has less to do with the level of poverty that needs to be addressed. This 4Ps is obviously for political patronage,” Ilagan said in a statement. She pointed out that the 4Ps budget and pork barrel fund should directly address the basic social needs of the people so these funds do not become venues for corruption and political patronage.
“President Aquino is obviously trying to insert into the budget his pet projects in infrastructure where he hopes to attract his preferred investors until his term ends in 2016. The nice print layout of course doesn’t mention that his new roads, tourist enclaves, and mall sprawls will destroy poor communities with massive evictions and relocations,” De Jesus said.
Joms Salvador, secretary general of women’s group Gabriela, said with the proposed 2014 national budget, the Aquino government has no intention of hiding its desire to consolidate the administration as reflected in lump sum un-programmed funds, which can be used to perpetuate patronage politics as well a corruption. The said un-programmed funds are still apart from the PDAF or the Priority Development Assistance Funds, which amounts to P 25.24 billion ($578 million) and the MPBF or Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund amounting to P80.7 billion ($1.850 billion).
“The P139.9 billion ($3.2 billion) is a huge chunk of the pie which Aquino and his kaklase, kabarilan, kamag-anak (classmates, shooting buddies and relatives) can bite on. And without a specific allotment, such amount can be used for whatever purpose or whim,” Salvador said.
Salvador also criticized the significant increase in financing for Public-Private Partnership projects, particularly for infrastructure development. “More importantly, budget for PPP projects are conveniently inserted in social services budget, which creates an impression that the budget for social services has been increased.”
Salvador said their group is set to keep watch on the budget deliberations and expose Aquino’s schemes “to fatten up big businesses and his cohorts at the expense of the people’s interests.”
“Such budget merely reflects Aquino’s anti-people policies that utterly disregard the interest of the majority in favor of big businesses. We will not allow this to happen,” Salvador said.