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Bayan Muna to House: Fund hospitals and rehab, not drug war

/ 04:31 PM September 17, 2017
Carlos Zarate - House of Representatives - 11 Sept 2017

In this photo, taken Sept. 12, 2017, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate delivers a privilege speech at the House of Representatives. (Photo from the Facebook account of Bayan Muna)

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate has asked the House of Representatives’ appropriations committee to restore the slashed budgets of public hospitals and drug rehabilitation programs – and scrap the funding of the government’s brutal anti-drug campaign.

Zarate outlined several proposed amendments to House Bill No. 6215, the House’s version of the 2018 General Appropriations Act, in a Sept. 15 letter addressed to committee chair Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles.


The Makabayan bloc lawmaker said P3.81 billion in funds should be realigned to the operation of dangerous drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation centers, instead of spending the funds on various law enforcement programs criticized for violation of human rights.

“Rehabilitation should be the primary recourse for solving drug-dependence and not the extrajudicial murder of suspected drug dependents,” Zarate wrote, as he sought the restoration of the budget to 2017 levels.


Drug war, community intel abuses

He proposed the deletion of P900-million budget for Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded, the antidrug operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP), citing “massive human rights violations including at least 12,000 people dead, including children.”

He also sought to rechannel the P500-million budget of the Mamamayang Ayaw sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw sa Iligal na Droga (Masa-Masid) program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The DILG described the community-based network as a “reporting mechanism on illegal drugs-related activities,” but human rights groups called it a witch-hunt for the killing of small-time suspects.

Zarate said “the plethora of human rights violations especially the brutal killings of drug suspects merits the removal of budget related to the War on Drugs.”

He also pinpointed the P3.41-billion budget of the Civilian Armed Force Geographic Unit (Cafgu) under the Department of National Defense, saying the group had incurred “grave human rights violations” and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program would merit its demobilization.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has proposed only P759.59 million for the rehabilitation of drug addicts in 2018.

On Sept. 7, Masbate Rep. Scott Davies Lañete, who sponsored the budget of the Department of Health, said the budget was freed up after 11 donors committed to shouldering the costs of new facilities instead.


Funding public hospitals

Besides the reduced funding for drug rehabilitation, Zarate said the budget for the maintenance and other operating expenses of the country’s public hospitals should be at least restored to their 2017 levels.

Undoing the budget cuts proposed by the DBM, however, would require P37.89 billion in realignments.

The funds for public hospitals, Zarate suggested, might be sourced from the scuttled P1.13-billion budget of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NICP), which was given a P1,000 purse after lawmakers approved his motion on Sept. 12.

He reiterated that NCIP only aided the further oppression of indigenous peoples and had been “inutile in the protection of their rights to land and self-determination.”

Reforestation, Apeco anomalies

Zarate also sought the defunding of the National Greening Program, set to receive P2.79 billion, as he questioned its integrity was doubtful due to the lack of third-party performance evaluation.

He added that the reforestation program had been used to justify land-grabbing from farmers and indigenous peoples.

The lawmaker also said the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority should not receive its proposed P89.51-million purse, citing the call of local farmers and indigenous peoples to scrap the controversial project.

Zarate also pointed to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority’s “anomalous and highly irregular” P2.15-billion allocation to compensate the “financial losses” of the National Power Corp., Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., and National Transmission Corp.

The said losses arose from the preferential rates given to semiconductor manufacturer Texas Instruments in Clark Economic Zone and Baguio Economic Zone. He said the amount was equivalent to a “sovereign guaranty” or “state subsidy” for a multinational corporation.

Lastly, Zarate said the proposed P7.5-billion increase in the contingent fund under the Office of the President should be diverted to hospitals.

He said the contingent fund should be retained at the 2017 level of P5.5 billion, finding the increase unjustified “especially with identified, very specific and immediate needs requiring higher budgetary priority.”

Zarate also asked the committee to prohibit the “impoundment” of appropriations. Currently, the bill allows for the President to the propose the rescission of the appropriation if it would no longer be required or if an unmanageable national government deficit should arise.

The lawmaker sought to limit the said power only in case of a national budget deficit. /atm

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TAGS: 17th Congress, 2018 national budget, Carlos Isagani Zarate, drug rehabilitation, Drug war, extrajudicial killings
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