‘Nonsense and deception’ for gov’t to claim there is no money for ‘ayuda’ | Inquirer Opinion
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‘Nonsense and deception’ for gov’t to claim there is no money for ‘ayuda’

/ 05:01 AM May 06, 2021

We will be among the last countries in Asia to recover from the pandemic notwithstanding the strictest and longest lockdowns that the Duterte administration has been imposing. And yet the administration refuses to admit its dismal performance and continues to pursue a failed containment strategy that has kept the country’s health and economic condition worse than last year.

Instead, it has always directed the blame to the general public for not complying with health protocols. But the height of its heartless lack of concern is in its refusal to provide adequate and sustained financial assistance (not trickles of “ayuda”) to the most affected sectors of society because there is supposedly no budget for this.

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This is a lot of nonsense and deception heaped on suffering Filipinos. Under the Constitution, the President has the authority to realign savings in the national budget and shift resources within the fiscal year to the most priority and urgent expenditures. These savings can be generated from funds appropriated for agency programs, projects, and activities that have not been fully utilized due to underspending, or from projects and activities already completed but with savings left due to spending efficiencies or other reasons.

For instance, authorized positions that are funded but which have not been filled up can immediately be used as savings for priority expenditures, and these amount to billions every year. Likewise, billions in confidential and intelligence funds are spread all over the budget, notably in the AFP and the PNP and the Office of the President, which can be scaled down and used instead for financial assistance to the most affected sectors and individuals. And what about the legislators’ wasteful pork barrel allocation, which have all been hidden from public scrutiny due to the pandemic?

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We do not need another bayanihan or ayuda legislation to respond to the most pressing needs of our suffering countrymen. What is needed is resourcefulness and a spirit of sacrifice and patriotism from the national leadership and the bureaucracy. The Duterte administration can easily provide much needed relief and comfort to the hungry and the jobless by tapping the vast budgetary resources at its disposal. The question is, does it really want to? Or, as is now being suspected by many, does it have a sinister agenda of withholding budgeted funds and reserving them for the 2022 national elections?

It is not a farfetched idea given the willingness of this administration to sacrifice the welfare and future of the country for its political survival. Think of the surrender of Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea at the expense of the livelihood of our local fishermen and our marine resources. Or the delay in the procurement of much-needed vaccines to give way to the Chinese donation of Sinovac doses and provide President Duterte an excuse for not standing up to China because he owes it a debt of gratitude. Or the premature opening up of the economy without the necessary support mechanisms. And, yes, the retention of incompetent and erring officials in the COVID-19 task force (the likes of Francisco Duque III and Debold Sinas) at the expense of an efficient response to the pandemic, simply because of the President’s personal bias for these officials.

Think of all that President Duterte as the leader of the nation is willing to sacrifice, and one is not surprised why he maintains that there is no budget for ayuda.

DONATO SOLIVEN
[email protected]

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TAGS: COVID-19 aid, Donato Soliven, Letters to the Editor
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