Friday, March 23, 2007

Team Unity: Where our money goes

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This letter appeared on Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) issue last March 22, 2007 (Thursday), page A14. It is a reaction to the unnecessary delay to the budget signing. The same day it was published, Arroyo quickly signed the budget to prevent collateral damage and snowballing of the issue. They got quite good tacticians, I say.

The article is also available at this link.
From Inquirer
Last updated 03:48am (Mla time) 03/22/2007

File:Team unity logo.jpg

Team Unity seems to have assumed that the public is already used to administration candidates always having the advantage of machinery and funding during elections. However, this begs the question: Where does Team Unity source its campaign funds? To answer this, we need only to look at the government’s primary source of funds: the national budget.

On Oct. 13, 2006, the House of Representatives approved the General Appropriation Act (GAA) for 2007 ( P1.126 trillion national budget), which the President certified as urgent. The House members were in such a rush they had to cast their votes at dawn, after 15 consecutive hours of session.

The 2007 GAA has been with MalacaƱang. But, until now, it is unsigned, purportedly being studied for possible “line vetoing,” which is a prerogative of the President, the Palace says.

With Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sitting on the budget law, we went into a new fiscal year without a new budget. As a result, the government may end up again with a reenacted budget. In this scenario, Arroyo can simply realign the allocations for projects and programs finished last year to items under her discretion — for election purposes.
Sad to say, while Arroyo dilly-dallies over a budget she herself certified as urgent, the government has been operating on a reenacted budget. As we all know, a reenacted budget can be treated as a lump sum that the President can dispense with as she pleases.

Now, more than ever, we should learn our lessons from recent history. In the last 2004 presidential election, the government used a reenacted budget. During that time, in connivance with then-undersecretary of agriculture Jocelyn Bolante, P728 million of the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA Rice) program was reportedly used to augment Arroyo’s 2004 campaign kitty. Not only that, GMA was also accused of using P5 million to P25 million in taxpayers’ funds to cover the cost of PhilHealth cards distributed to the public during the election campaign.

Certainly, if Arroyo’s allies did it in the past, as alleged, they can do it again.

The vulnerability of the budget to absolute executive control is bad enough; it gets worse when this absolute control is used without scruples. It is not hard to imagine that a regime as Machiavellian as GMA’s is now using public funds to pump up Team Unity’s campaign.

We in the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) believe that the only sustainable solution to this recurring problem is to make the budget process more transparent, democratic and accountable.

FDC calls for public vigilance, especially during this period, when the logic of money politics directs the unscrupulous instincts of politicians to use, for their own selfish ends, whatever public funds they can get their hands on. We thereby call on the voters to reject any candidate who use public money in his or her campaign for a seat in government.

JAMES MIRAFLOR, campaigner, Freedom from Debt Coalition, 11 Matimpiin St., Central District, Quezon City


Aids said...

okay. facts please. enough with the allegations.

The Great Sage said...

My, GMA is afraid of you guys. Where can I sign up?