DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The 270 billion-peso budget allocated by the national government to aid the poorest of the poor amid the COVID-19 pandemic is not enough.
This was the revelation of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte during his speech on Monday (Apr. 6) night, days after assuring the public that his government has the necessary funds.
A 100 billion-peso budget for one month is found wanting, the president said and has asked the Department of Finance to generate and produce more money.
“(M)agnakaw ka, manghiram ka, wala akong pakialam (You steal, you borrow, I don’t care.),” Duterte told Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
Pres. Duterte assured the low-income households that his government would help them and urged them to just stay at home and wait.
He has vowed to donate his one-month salary to help in the government’s response to the public health crisis.
Why the change in tack?
Detaching from his “bullying style” speeches on his second report, Pres. Duterte has seemingly asked for pity and understanding from the people, said lawyer Carlos Zarate, Bayan Muna representative and concurrent Deputy Minority leader of the Congress.
Zarate doesn’t believe the president’s explanation that problems currently hound the latter’s COVID 19 response because of the lack of funds.
Pres. Duterte, he said, had promised to get all the funds if the people give him emergency powers through the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
The law grants him additional powers to handle the COVID-19 crisis as well as the power to reshuffle funds in this year’s national budget.
“But until now, many are still left without help from the government,” he said.
Zarate added billions of pesos in the budget have remained untapped because “Duterte is very slow and inefficient.”
No lack of funds
Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares enumerated the available funds to contest Pres. Duterte’s claim of lack of funds.
“Out of the Php 4.1 trillion budget for 2020, Pres. Duterte was given Php 2.68 trillion and his government corporations were given Php 201 billion. Only Php 781 billion were allocated for LGUs while Php 450 billion was allocated for creditors,” he said.
In his report, Pres. Duterte mentioned the following funds: a) Projects to be discontinued [unreleased appropriations], Php 189.823 Billion, b) PPA, MIAA, CAAP advanced remittances, Php 10 Billion, c) Cebu Ports Authority Php, 500 Million, d) Collected dividends from 12 GOCCs, Php 78.6 Billion, and e) DOE’s unutilized funds, Php 2.34 Billion.
“The above already totaled to Php 291 Billion, more than covering the Php 270-billion budget needed for amelioration fund for the people,” said Colmenares.
Pres. Duterte, he said, should have hundreds of billions in his command, including the savings in his government has made since 2017.
“The problem here is that there is no transparency,” he said. (davaotoday.com)