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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

 

Why I voted “NO” to the budget bill

When we passed all those tax measures last year – the VAT, the sin taxes and others – it was on the promise of more funds for social services and development. The proposed 2006 budget grievously reneges on that promise.

The General Appropriations Act is the single most tangible expression of an administration’s programs, strategies and priorities. This budget expresses exactly that – that the priority of this administration is not to serve the basic needs of our toiling people, but rather to keep the current administration in power. Matapos nating tapyasin ang anumang tabang natitira sa ating mamamayan sa pamamagitan ng mga dagdag na buwis, ngayon nama’y gagamitin natin ito upang prituhin sila.

The budget provides for P8 billion worth of presidential pork barrel, a survival fund to be disbursed to local government units as she wishes, subject to the usual spreading around of the loot. Another P1.25 billion is also hidden from Congressional scrutiny as they are majestically marked “confidential” and thus immune from disclosure.

Now we are told that there is hidden in the budget a P2.6 billion contingency fund but that the money will not be used for much-needed social services but for a fake people’s initiative on Charter change. Why this was not mentioned at all during the deliberations, only the House leadership can say.

As always, the 2006 budget prioritizes debt servicing above all else, reserving P340 billion, or 32% of the entire government budget to interest payments. In reality, the total debt servicing budget, including principal payments, is a whopping P721.7 billion, or 50% of total expenditures. In a similar twist of accounting magic, proponents hide from us the fact that total authorized disbursement of the government is actually P1.5 trillion to include hidden liabilities.

In real per capita terms, debt payments will cost every single Filipino P8.13 per day. In contrast, the government will spend a measly 52 centavos per day for health services – not even enough to buy aspirin for an overstressed, underpaid worker. The government likewise spends only P7.87 a day for every student despite the already glaring deficiencies of our educational system.

As a final attempt to at least make the budget more responsive to our people’s needs, I proposed to re-channel a total of P7.384 B from the intelligence funds of the President, the PNP and AFP as well as the VFA Commission, the AFP Modernization Program, and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to the DepEd budget. Apparently, this was not even given a thought by the House leadership.

For these and many more reasons, I voted NO to this anti-people budget.