Thursday, August 31, 2006

“No” to “Supplemental” Budget for FY 2006

Explanation of “No” Vote to HB 5668 or the “Supplemental” Budget for FY 2006
by Bayan Muna Rep. Joel G. Virador

August 30, 2006

There are several irreconcilable discrepancies – even at face value – in the Supplemental Budget that belies the administration’s ostentatious concerns for public welfare and social service. For if indeed the supplemental budget was for such, why wasn’t there any allocation made to the Health and Housing sectors?

We say this is a Supplemental Budget but does the nature of the appropriation excuse Congress from being less scrupulous, if not from outright servility to the Executive? Transparency, even token, would normally compel the DBM to detail and specify the nature of each appropriation – something we normally see from the three or four thick budget books the department submits to Congress for consideration each year.

Curiously, instead of four thick budget books, what we have here are four pages of appropriations worth P46 billion that Congress is expected to approve without question or benefit of careful scrutiny. On top of that is a late addition of some P2.14 billion for an Oil Spill due to the error of Petron, and expenses for a possible retake in the recent nursing licensure exam due to alleged test leakage.

The proposed P3.25 billion for the DOTC for instance is hard to swallow considering that the bulk of the amount will go to equity rental fee and other maintenance and administration costs. The MRT-3 project contract has been assailed for rendering unconscionable obligations on the part of the government such as the shouldering of rental fees, while conferring little and patently inequitable shares in the project’s income. The MRT-3 contract should be reviewed before we infuse further funds into it.

A “supplement” is supposed to supply a deficiency or reinforce a whole. But take the allocation for the Department of Agrarian Reform for instance, which even exceeds the budget for CARP in the original 2006 budget.

Except the IRA, the highest budget appears to be for the Department of Education. But with its overly ambitious scope, the appropriation is simply not enough. Except funds for textbook and instructional materials, the highest budget item for the department is the “School Feeding Program” at P1.6 billion. An extra half billion has been allotted for DSWD under a similar project, the “Food for School,” making the School Feeding program worth over two billion pesos. With the not too salutary impact and doubtful implementation of this pet project of Ms. Arroyo, the funds could have been devoted to spending on programs that concretely improve the dismal state of education in the country. And it being an election year next year, coupled by Ms. Arroyo’s dearth in credibility and tangible accomplishments, it is deplorable that her administration would resort to funding high profile but low impact projects.

With the allocation for Local Government Units and the IRA being the highest among the items identified in HB 5668, the Supplemental Budget by all appearances is an “election” budget. In the originally proposed 2006 budget, there were certain items dubbed as the “pork” of the Office of the President, notably the Kilos Asenso fund, and the Kalayaan Barangay fund, both amounting to P8 billion. As we are all seemingly resigned to a re-enacted budget this year, these items have been fortunately (or unfortunately) consigned to oblivion. “Or are they?” We are inclined to ask thus since the administration has made certain to make allocations to LGUs anyway, via this supplemental budget.

Given the so-called People’s Initiative and Arroyo’s standing obligation to continually please and appease LGUs in order to sustain her political station, excluding LGUs in the supplemental budget would be counter-intuitive and politically ruinous for Arroyo at this point. The NEDA secretary, Felipe Medalla himself, put it bluntly when he warned that the forthcoming 2007 elections would make it hard to “decompress” spending as funds could be used by politicians to buy political clout. “The worst case,” Medalla was quoted as saying “is if the…budget will be used to make sure anti-impeachment congressmen will get re-elected.”

Mr. Speaker, I therefore vote “No” to HB 5668.

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