Groups dismayed at politicking in House
MANILA, Philippines — A broad coalition of concerned citizens, including four former Cabinet secretaries, on Wednesday expressed dismay at the politicking in the House of Representatives and urged congressmen to pass a spending law that would address public health issues and social services.
In a petition signed by over a hundred groups and individuals, including former Social Work Secretaries Judy Taguiwalo and Dinky Soliman, Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, they urged congressmen to deliberate on the budget in an “open, public and transparent manner” so the public can scrutinize the legislation. “The practice of limiting this process to select congressmen and away from public scrutiny should end,” they added.
As it is, they said, the current proposed budget “appear[s] oblivious to the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health, the economy and the educational system.”
The petitioners appealed to Congress to “listen and act on the very urgent demands of our people to prioritize public health spending, social protection and economic stimulus, and the retooling of our educational system in the 2021 budget.”
“To both Houses of Congress, we ask you to heed the people’s urgent call for a budget that effectively addresses the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis,” they added.
“We cannot but watch in disgust lawmakers bickering over lucrative positions, all while our teachers struggle with printers and internet connection, studying siblings compete for gadget use, and food and education compete in the family budget,” Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary general, said in a separate statement.
He said newly installed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco must prove that he has nobler intentions than simply winning the speakership. Basilio stressed that the proposed 2021 budget for the education sector did not contain the needed funds for appropriate learning materials and devices, as well as school safety measures and adequate benefits for education workers.
A chunk of the Department of Education’s P605.74-billion 2021 budget was lodged under unprogrammed funds, including basic education facilities (P3.8 billion), the last mile schools program (P6.5 billion), flexible learning options (P5 billion) and the voucher program for private senior high schools (P10.5 billion).
Despite these concerns, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) slammed the Marinduque representative for choosing to install a “fake” party-list representative as one his first acts as Speaker.
After being installed as Speaker on Tuesday, Velasco inducted Duterte Youth Rep. Ducielle Marie Cardema although the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had yet to resolve a pending complaint.
“The youth and students will never recognize the Duterte Youth party list. Their oathtaking is an addition to the many acts of the Duterte regime in delegitimizing the interests of the youth and students,” NUSP said.
“The union remains firm in its stand that Duterte Youth is nothing but a fake party list that has no intention of representing the genuine concerns of the youth but rather be a lapdog of this administration,” NUSP said.
The youth group We The Future PH also scored Velasco’s induction of Cardema.
“Despite being unregistered with unresolved violations, Duterte Youth was proclaimed by the Lower House and the Comelec. Like a thief in the night, the Comelec issued a certificate of proclamation to Duterte Youth,” We The Future PH, said in a statement.
“This is a betrayal of the Constitution and another brazen disrespect for the rule of law under [President] Duterte,” they added.
In a radio interview, lawyer Emil Marañon, the group’s lawyer, questioned why the House leadership allowed Cardema to take her oath as a member of Congress despite a number of issues still pending before the Comelec.
“We are surprised why Cardema was included in the rollcall of House members even before she took her oath, and why she was already attending that event at the Celebrity Sports Plaza, when she was not even a member of Congress,” he said.
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