September 11, 2019
QUEZON CITY – Human rights group Karapatan questioned and opposed the P8.2 billion budget of the Office of the President (OP) for the year 2020, which was swiftly approved in less than 7 minutes.
On Friday, September 6, 2018, at a hearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, even without a presentation detailing its specifics, the Office of the President’s budget was approved because of “traditional courtesy.”
“Our checks and balances are failing. The parasites in Congress would rather pass such a critical and enormous budget for “courtesy,” rather than asking the right and necessary questions. The OP budget is classified as discretionary funds, which make it vulnerable to corruption and other irregular transactions. Knowing this government, such a huge sum will fuel repression, disinformation, and all-out attacks against the Filipino people. It will fund the guns and weaponry that will aggravate the killings and attacks in communities,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.
“The spike in Duterte’s budget, which is 21% higher than his office’s P6.77 billion budget in 2019, should have prompted lawmakers to question it. The increase alone is already alarming, made even more daunting by the confidential and intelligence funds which are almost doubled. Our coffers will yet again pay for the riding-in-tandem gunmen, the bombs that will raze communities, the rewards for fake surrenders, the blabbermouths that will twist the stories, and the whole structure of impunity that will leave perpetrators off the hook,” she added, citing reports that more than half of the Office of the President’s budget for the year 2020 consists of confidential and intelligence funds which amounts to P4.5 billion. With this approved budget, Duterte’s office will receive the biggest share of confidential and intelligence funds out of all agencies.
Palabay also raised that this is the danger of having a Duterte-allied supermajority in Congress. “Is “traditional courtesy” even an acceptable excuse? Those in Congress are not thinking about their constituents, but are deciding on the basis of what makes their President happy – no doubt to boost their own political career. They are complicit to the killings and violations, and they expose the rotten core of our legislative system.”
The Karapatan official expressed that the misallocation of funds have been an issue, time and again. “Duterte is a populist, yet the budget reveals his talk about universal healthcare, free education, and other populist measures are mere rhetoric. In a latest report, the budget for the Department of Education’s Government Assistance Subsidies has been decreased by 2.93% – from P32.12 billion in 2019 to P31.18 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, the Department of Health revealed that there could not be a national roll-out of the Universal Health Care as it would need about P257 billion, but will likely be given a P166.5 billion proposed budget. The Department of Science and Technology will likewise be getting a mere P20 billion, a small sum in comparison the PNP’s P185 billion in 2020,” Palabay explained.
“Social services are constantly non-prioritized while the budget for the PNP and the military are beefed up annually. Clearly, we can see what is valued and what is intentionally left behind. This is where money goes when you have militarists in government. The socio-economic ills of our country are being ignored while people who raise legitimate demands about poverty and injustice are shot and illegally arrested. The government plans to dazzle Filipinos with infrastructures that have resulted to an outstanding external debt of P7.49 trillion, from last year’s P7.3 trillion and 2017’s P6.7 trillion. The situation on the ground has gone from worse to worst as majority are bearing the brunt of unemployment, lower wages, criminal neglect of the agricultural sector, contractualization, and inaccessible social services – piled on top of State terrorism in urban and rural communities,” Palabay said.
“Truly, there is less and less for the Filipino people in this regime. A life of security and dignity is not afforded to Filipinos, unless one is a kumpadre of those in Malacañang; they even give you an additional bonus and free pass to be absolved of whatever crime you commit. We see an exacerbation of the political and economic crisis, given the 2020 budget and the Duterte regime’s policy thrusts. As the deliberations on the 2020 budget are expected to be completed before the 18th Congress takes a break in October, we enjoin everyone to remain vigilant. There is no transparency and accountability in this government, and the people are once again called to task,” concluded Palabay.