Various progressive groups trooped to the House of Representatives on October 16, the scheduled last day of deliberations for the 2021 national budget, protesting it as a “Kill, kill, kill” budget and not a pandemic response budget.
Aside from the budget being channeled to the administration’s anti-terrorism campaign given the release of the implementing rules and regulations of the controversial and much-protested ‘terror law’ with 37 petitions challenging it in the Supreme Court, groups assailed the 2021 national budget as “election budget” for those in control of it.
The bill breezed through second and third readings on the same day, as it did last year.
In the plenary, House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna partylist flagged the P4.5 trillion proposed 2021 national budget bill for allowing the President to realign savings to augment intelligence funds of departments, including the president’s own, the Office of the President.
Zarate said the provision under Section 74 of the budget bill usurps Congress’ power of the purse.
“Section 74 po, nakalagay, pag magkaroon ng savings, puedeng gamitin para i-augment ang intelligence funds. Ang Office of the President pa lang po has already P4.5 billion of confidential and intelligence fund for 2021,” said Zarate.
Bayan Muna partylist Representative Ferdinand Gaite said the budget is not a budget for the people and not a pandemic response budget, but a budget to fund continued militarization and fascism and to benefit a few through corruption.
Gaite assailed that P509 billion is allotted to Defense at Public Order and Safety, allocated to the Department of National Defense (DND) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). He also highlighted the P19.1 billion budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Meanwhile, the Department of Social Worker and Development (DSWD) got only 171.2 billion and the Department of Health (DOH), P203.1 billion, including the P2.5 billion for Covid-19 vaccine procurement.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas criticized the spending plan is full of anomalies and pork insertions she called “multiple infra-pork slices” which she said amounts to P397 billion, bigger than the spending plan of the health department amid the Covid-19 pandemic and that there are no funds allocated to build hospitals and health facilities.
“Ang alokasyon na ito ay para lamang sa construction, repair, at maintenance ng mga daan, tulay, at flood control projects – ni singko walang nakalaan sa pagpapagawa ng ospital at iba pang health facilities. Hiwalay pa ito sa nakakalulang P38-billion na pondo para sa Right-of-Way na bulnerable sa korapsyon at arbitrary spending,” said Brosas.
ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro lamented that there is no substantial increase in the budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) and is instead filled with budget cuts.
“Kabilang dito ang budget sa edukasyon, walang substantial increase sa budget ng DepEd at puno ng budget cuts tulad ng Disaster Preparedness and Response Program, slashed by P256.5 million kahit may pandemya; Basic Education Facilities para sa additional classrooms, arm chairs, functional clinic, washing areas, comfort rooms, at iba pang school facilities, slashed by P5.360 million; Basic Education Curriculum, slashed by P.5069 million; Early Language Literacy and Numeracy, slashed by P19.597 million; School-Based Feeding Program, slashed by P500 million; at Zero budget sa Special Education Program para sa mga differently abled learners,” she said.
DepEd, state universities and colleges, Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority collectively received P692.6 billion in the 2020 budget. DepEd alone received P521.351 billion in 2020, or P20 billion higher than in 2019.
Castro also criticized the low allocation for production of modules, and absence of funding for internet and gadgets of teachers and students for distance learning.
Many teachers lamented having not received any assistance from the DepEd given the shift to distance learning leading to the opening of classes on October 5, spending their own money on printing, delivering modules, internet and gagdets for online classes as even the modular modality of learning requires online classes or interactions between teachers and students and their parents.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago said the allocation for COVID-19 pandemic response, even for health in general, is way below internationally accepted and agreed standards.
“Hindi sinasalamin ng nakalaang pondo para sa kalusugan ang kagyat na pangangailangan upang epektibong maka-responde laban sa COVID-19. Hindi man lang umabot sa 3 percent ng P4.5 [trillion]. Malayo sa rekomendasyon na 5 percent ng kabuuang budget ang dapat nakalaan sa kalusugan,” said Elago.
Makabayan bloc representatives — comprised of partylists Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan and ACT Teachers — lamented the budget priorities given the recent surveys that showed record-high joblessness and hunger.
The House of Representatives voted 257 yes, 6 no and no one abstained to approve on third and final reading the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.
The Makabayan bloc voted ‘no’ to the proposed budget.
Newly-minted House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the 2021 national budget is “truly reflective and responsive to the needs of our people.”
“We have provided every representative the opportunity to raise issues, clarify any misconceptions, and recommend how we can make the budget truly responsive to our current and pressing needs and conditions,” he said.
The agencies that received the biggest allocations:
- DepEd P754.4 billion
- Department of Public Works and Highways, P667.3 billion
- DILG, P246.1 billion
- DND, P209.1 billion
- DOH, P203.1 billion
- DSWD, P171.2 billion
- Department of Transportation, P143.6 billion
- Department of Agriculture, P66.4 billion
- the Judiciary, P43.5 billion; and
- Department of Labor and Employment, P27.5 billion
The Lower House plans to transmit their version of the budget to the Senate on October 28.