Show us the money! | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Show us the money!

When the position of chair of the House committee on appropriations is mentioned, it is often preceded by the phrase “the powerful.” For indeed, the position vests the leader of the committee with “the power of the purse” to distribute largesse from the budget, assign amounts to various departments depending on their priorities and influence the leadership of each department.

“It is also one of the biggest committees in the House, with more than a hundred members,” says Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, chair of the appropriations committee who is these days busy presiding over budget hearings.


But Nograles faces another tricky problem: sourcing funds for the newly signed Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Law, which grants full government subsidy to students of state universities and colleges (SUCs) and of technical-vocational training institutions run by Tesda.

President Duterte’s economic managers were cool to the passage of the law arguing that no clear budget had been allotted for the estimated P50 billion required just for the 2018 schoolyear. But the measure was too popular to be ignored, and so, as
Mr. Duterte himself admitted, he signed the measure into law, leaving it up to his “boys” to find the needed funds. Nograles has a proposal: tap unused funds budgeted for some departments and channel these to the SUCs and “tech-voc” schools.


Finding these excess funds is certainly a priority, since some 1.9 million students, just for SUCs alone, are eagerly waiting for news that the money to
fund their college education (only for four-year courses) is now available.

“Many departments include in their annual budgets money for projects that do not pan out,” said Nograles. A “bad habit” among officials, he notes, is simply recycling these budget items in hopes of utilizing them in full in the coming cycle. For various reasons, says the Davao congressman, departments like transportation, agrarian reform, information and technology and others are unable to make full use of their budgets, which if left unused at the end of one budget cycle are simply remitted to the National Treasury. “If we could reassign the unused budget money of many
departments,” assures Nograles, “I am confident we can fully fund the free tuition law’s requirements.”

A major problem, he states, is “resistance from the department heads,” and so he has begun talking individually to Duterte Cabinet members to convince them to let go of their excess budget funds. Will the secretaries listen and act? Students—and their parents—should start demanding “show us the money!”

As an international agency devoted to the welfare of children around the world, Unicef officials and staff would understandably be concerned about the death of Kian delos Santos, a Grade 12 student shot dead as part of the government’s war on drugs.

Calling the 17-year-old’s killing “deeply disturbing,” Lotta Sylwander, Unicef representative in the country, said they “share the grief (of Kian’s family) and the grief of all the families of children who have been killed, as well as of children who have lost parents, caregivers and relatives, during antidrug operations.”

Unicef Philippines is calling for a “fair and transparent investigation” into Kian’s death, that must be undertaken “in a manner that seeks to guarantee the best interests of children and promote respect for their rights.”

Unicef reminds that the Philippines is a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and so has “a legal and moral obligation to promote, protect and fulfill the human rights of every child.” To emphasize the need to respond to demands for an impartial investigation into Kian’s death, and ensure that no other child suffers his fate, Unicef says “every child’s right to life, to develop to her or his full potential, to be heard, and to be
protected from all forms of violence are universal and inalienable. There are no exceptions. These rights apply without qualification… there is no higher value for a society than to protect its own children and youth.”

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