Taguiwalo draws solons' ire in House debate on budget | Inquirer News

Taguiwalo draws solons’ ire in House debate on budget

/ 12:36 PM September 01, 2016



Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Thursday received a battering from congressmen during the House of Representatives hearing on the proposed P129.8-billion budget in 2017.

The first salvo came from Majority Floor Leader Rudy Farinas, who asked for a clarification from Taguiwalo about a report quoting her that politicians should spend their own money for their constituents instead of relying on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).


Taguiwalo denied the report and said the DSWD memorandum circular 9 she signed does not intend to bar congressmen from endorsing beneficiaries.


Fariñas said that he should be treated like Taguiwalo’s “best friend” because he as majority floor leader would calendar the DSWD plenary budget hearing on the floor and that he, as member of the Commission on Appointments (CA), is also tasked to confirm her post as DSWD Secretary.

He also reminded Taguiwalo that Congress holds the power of the purse that DSWD is asking as its budget.

“You are here today because you know, not a single centavo will be paid out of the public funds without appropriation. That’s why the president comes up with National Expenditure Program and proposes expenditures… Hindi kami ang humihingi ng pera sa inyo. Tayo ang humihingi ng pera sa Kongreso. Walang pwedeng gastusin diyan kung walang basbas ng gobyerno (We are not asking money from you. We are asking money from the Congress. We cannot spend without the government’s blessing),” Fariñas said.

“Kaya po, Ma’am, ako ang best friend niyo rito… Ako ang majority floor leader will calendar it on the floor… in the same manner na pag dating sa CA ako rin ang best friend mo, Ma’am (That’s why, Ma’am, I’m your best friend here… As the majority floor leader, I will calendar it on the floor… in the same manner, I’m your best friend at CA, Ma’am),” Fariñas said.

Taguiwalo said she is well aware of the powers of Congress in approving the department’s budget, and Fariñas’ mandate to confirm her post.

“I’m fully aware of the power of the House of Representatives regarding the budget approval. Regarding your appointments, I don’t overestimate that whatever power we have in the department is really just an extension of the power of the authority given to us by President Duterte. Hindi po talaga kami ka-level ng House of Representatives (We are not on the same level as House of Representatives). I understand what you’re saying. I’m so happy that I have a best friend in you as majority floor leader and CA,” Taguiwalo said.


Taguiwalo maintained, however, that the circular seeks to stop the practice of congressmen getting favored projects in the DSWD after she received information there’s an allocation of projects for lawmakers even after the Supreme Court scrapped the pork barrel.

Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin took exception to the provision of the circular that specifically mentions the prohibition of post-enactment of projects by lawmakers after the Supreme Court scrapped the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional.

Garbin said the circular then connects this anti-PDAF provision to the prohibition of lawmakers in endorsing beneficiaries.

“You treat it as PDAF dahil sa (because of the ) guidelines. You made it akin that all referrals parang sinabi niyo na na unconstitutional, kasi parang kino-connect niyo masyado sa decision ng Korte Suprema (it seems that you are saying are unconstitutional because you connect it to the decision of the Supreme Court)… In light of these guidelines, naputol nga po ang ugnayan (the connection has been cut). Pwede ba maibalik ang ugnayan (Can we go back to the connection)?” Garbin said.

Taguiwalo said the circular does not cut the connection between DSWD and lawmakers per se but it stops the practice of giving preference to the endorsed beneficiaries of the lawmakers.

She said there was a practice that lawmakers have an allocated amount of projects with the DSWD that smacks of being like pork barrel.

“When some representatives, even those who lost the elections, approached us to say we still have a balance of money with the department, I was taken aback as new secretary. I didn’t have any idea there are allocations for representatives in the department,” Taguiwalo said.

Negros Oriental Rep. Arnie Teves grilled Taguiwalo and asked her who should know the plight of the poor better, the DSWD or the congressmen.

Taguiwalo questioned why Teves is “dichotomizing” the poor, and added that the debate should not be on who knows the poor’s plight better between representatives and DSWD.

She said the question should be if representatives are given a pork-barrel like fund in the DSWD.

“I don’t think usapin ito ng mas marami kaming kakilala na mahihirap kaysa sa inyo. Pagtulungan naman natin ito. Ang point lang namin, ang DSWD ay willing makipagtulungan sa mga representative. Pero hindi po pwedeng parang may entitlement na may milyon kayo,” she added.

(I don’t think this is an issue that we know more poor people than you do. Let us cooperate with each other. Our point is the DSWD is willing to coordinate with the representatives. But it shouldn’t be like that you have a sense of entitlement that you have a million [beneficiaries].)

Teves lashed back and insisted that it is the congressmen who know their poor constituents better.

“Hindi naman sa inyo yan eh! Pera ng tao yan eh (The fund is not yours. It’s the people’s money)!” Teves said.

The hearing was suspended to cool off  heads. Taguiwalo said the DSWD is always willing to work with the representatives, but no one should be given preferential treatment.

“It’s not about who knows (the poor) better,” Taguiwalo said.

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“Bottomline is pera ng tao yan (is that is the people’s money). Ang sinasabi ko lang tumutulong lang kami (What I’m saying is we are just helping out),” Teves said. RAM/rga

TAGS: DSWD, House of Representatives, PDAF, solons

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