MANILA, Philippines – The new minority bloc in the Senate met on Thursday and agreed, among others, to scrutinize the proposed P2.2 trillion national budget for 2014, specifically how the budget of the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program was being spent.
Acting Senate President Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who attended the meeting, said the minority group might specifically look into how the CCT program was being implemented and check whether or not it was used to support the election bid of some of its allies.
“We will scrutinize [the] budget…,” Estrada told reporters in the Senate, adding that they also agreed to vote as a bloc on certain issues.
“Of course we may differ with opinion in some of the issues but as much as possible, we will vote as a bloc,” he said.
Asked what departments or programs of government the minority group would look into during budget deliberations in the Senate, Estrada pointed to the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s CCT program.
Asked why, Estrada said: “E hindi natin alam kung talagang successful yung programa o hindi dahil minsan katulad sa Manila alone, City of Manila before elections nagbuhos talaga sila ng pera. (We don’t know if the program was really successful or not because in the City of Manila for instance, they really poured in money before the elections).”
His father, former President Joseph Estrada, was elected mayor in Manila during the last election against then incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim.
Asked further if he had doubts as how the budget for the CCT program was being spent, the Acting Senate President said yes.
“Dahil tuwing malapit na ang election, doon sila bumubuhos (Every time elections draw near they pour in more funds),” he pointed out.
If this thing could happen in Manila, then Estrada said this could also happen in other areas.
“I hope regardless of any political affiliation, sana naman ma-distribute equally sa ating mga kababayang mahirap. Kasi ang nangyari ng nakaraang election assuming kapartido nila itong ganitong kandidato, syempre ibubuhos nila. We can’t remove it from them,” he said.
(I hope regardless of any political affiliation, I hope they would distribute it equally to our poor countrymen. Because what happened in the last election was that they poured in the money to their partymates. We can’t remove it from them.)
Still, Estrada reiterated their promise not to be a destructive or obstructionist opposition.
Aside from Estrada, the other minority members who attended the meeting held at the Office of the Vice President in Pasay City were neophyte Senators Ma. Lourdes “Nancy Binay and JV Ejercito, Senators Gregorio Honasan and Juan Ponce-Enrile, who is expected to be elected Minority Leader when Congress opens on July 22.
Only Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who was abroad, was absent in the meeting.
Senator Binay said her father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, also joined the meeting.