Makabayan bloc slams ‘blind approval’ of 2023 OP budget
MANILA, Philippines – The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives on Friday slammed the “blind approval” of the Office of the President’s (OP) proposed budget for 2023 after the House appropriations committee swiftly terminated deliberations on the matter in less than ten minutes.
The hearing on the P8.969-billion budget of the OP in 2023 immediately ended upon the motion of House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, who cited the “tradition” of extending parliamentary courtesy to a co-equal branch of the government.
On behalf of the Makabayan bloc, House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro cried foul over what she said was a “type of hyper-accelerated budget process.”
Traditionalism, Castro said further, shouldn’t get in the way of the common good.
“The committee blatantly violated basic principles of transparency and accountability by discharging its constitutional duty over public funds in such a manner. We assert that the President’s budget must be scrutinized and the massive confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) be explained,” she said in a statement.
From the nearly P9-billion budget of the OP in 2023, P4.5 billion will be earmarked for CIF.
This, according to the lawmaker, “shows the skewed priorities of the Marcos administration.”
“This administration should be more prudent in spending taxpayer’s money because we are still under a pandemic and our economy is in shambles,” she stressed.
Castro continued: “We, from the Makabayan bloc, would try our best to ensure that what our people need like higher salaries, aid, health services and improved quality of education are the ones that are given budgetary priority rather than the whims of those in power. We will definitely bring these issues up at the plenary.”
Following the footsteps of his predecessor
Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel, who earlier manifested his intention to raise points about the OP budget, went on the offensive against it, specifically the P4.5 billion CIF and the P4.898 billion allocated for Oversight to National Security Programs.
In a series of tweets, Manuel said that the CIF under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., which takes up more than half of the OP’s total 2023 budget, is “a continuation of a similar trend under the Rodrigo Duterte regime.”
“This is amid widespread attacks of state security forces on progressives, advocates, opposition, and even ordinary citizens calling for government response to crises,” he said.
The lawmaker added that this is also while the “state dismisses real threats to national security like China’s encroachment on our territory.”
“Halatang gustong protektahan ang pondo ni [President Ferdinand] Marcos Jr. para sa state terror at pasistang atake sa taumbayan. Sa lagay na ito, mapupunta lamang ang pork barrel ni Marcos Jr. sa mga institusyon gaya ng NTF-ELCAC na nireredtag, inaatake, pinapahamak at pinapatay ang mamamayan,” Manuel said.
(The desire to protect Marcos Jr.’s funds for state terror and fascist attacks is obvious. At this rate, Marcos Jr.’s pork barrel will just be given to institutions like the NTF-ELCAC who red tags, harms and kills our countrymen.)
In a separate statement, House appropriations committee chairman Elizaldy Co said the OP budget breezed through the panel “without any question” from its members despite Manuel expressing his intention to raise concerns.
Co noted, however, that questions about the proposed OP budget can be further discussed during the plenary session.