Makabayan bloc laments budget cuts in social services on 2020 budget
MANILA, Philippines — The proposed P4.1 trillion 2020 national budget contained huge budget cuts for social services and notable increases in security and defense agencies, as well as infrastructure programs, the House Makabayan opposition bloc lamented Thursday.
ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat said their analysis of the budget bill approved by the Congress bicameral conference committee last Dec. 11 has revealed that the amendments made by the panel were mostly “undetailed.”
The Department of Public Works and Highways got the biggest budget hike with a net increase of P51.139 billion, according to the group.
Zarate said various defense and security agencies received around P6 billion budget augmentation in next year’s expenditure plan.
“Pero dito sa bicam report, wala naman kaming makitang details, page that indicates ano’ng details ng increases na ito,” he lamented in a press conference.
(But in the bicam report, we did not see any details, or pages leading us to the details of the increases.)
Castro, meanwhile, branded these “undetailed” changes as pork barrel or lump-sum, post-enactment discretionary funds which the Supreme Court had already struck down in 2013 for being illegal.
“Punung-puno ito ng mga pork, punung-puno ito ng mga kahina-hinala na mga dagdag na mga pondo pero makikita mo naman dun sa mga social services ay nabawasan,” she said.
(This budget is full of pork, full of dubious increases in funds while the budget for social services had been reduced.)
Gaite for his part said the budget for basic education facilities got a P6.5 billion decrease from its original P36 billion appropriation to P29.5 billion.
The progressive lawmakers then appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte’s office to scrutinize the budget thoroughly and veto questionable portions.
The Makabayan bloc also pointed our the following budget cuts:
- Pension and Gratuity Fund – P74.029 billion
- National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund – P9 billion
- Payment of Personnel Benefits – P6.626 billion
Even Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier stressed that projects without clear details are still considered pork. He also said the House made last-minute insertions in the budget bill prior to the bicam approval and ratification by both chambers of Congress.
House Speaker Alan Cayetano and Majority Leader Martin Romualdez have maintained that the lower chamber’s amendments were not pork, while appropriations chair and Davao Rep. Isidro Ungab said the changes were recommended by President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet and other government agencies.
The spending bill is now up for Duterte’s scrutiny. He has until December 31 to sign the 2020 expenditure plan to prevent a reenacted budget before the new fiscal year starts.