SPECIAL REPORT: 2011 proposed budget prone to corruption—think-tank

Antipolo City, September 3, 2010—Independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, Inc. doubts that the increment in the 2011 Budget is not for the public good but for “patronage” politics, which the Aquino administration, upon the first day of its installation, has promised to eliminate.

Ibon research chief, Jose Enrique Africa observed that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the proposed 2011 budget has increased by Php13.9 billion—or 128.5%–from Php10.9 billion in 2010 to Php24.8 billion.

“This large pork barrel allocated mainly according to parochial concerns is inconsistent with improving the effectiveness of spending,” says Africa.

Africa criticized the Php29.2-billion budget for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program 4Ps), especially the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program, which he says will just create massive opportunities for patronage politics at both the local and national levels.

The policy and economic expert also noted a vague large lump-sum item for locally-funded projects under the Department of Agriculture (DA). An allocation worth Php5-billion was created for “Public-Private Partnership Support Fund” under the DA Office of the Secretary.

“Lump sum funds are prone to corruption. Who decides on how these funds are going to be used?” asks Africa.

While the pork barrel is beefing up, Ibon had noted the huge drop for major sectors under economic services and insufficient allocations for social services as alleged steps for austerity.

“In contrast there are huge increases in proposed spending for other areas such as debt servicing (29.2% increase), armed forces  (17.9% increase), and in the PDAF, among others. These mispriorities in the budget are not consistent with government’s avowed fight against corruption. More importantly, this skewed spending means government retreating from its responsibilities in much-needed areas as well as on its goal of uplifting majority of Filipinos from poverty,” Africa said in his statement.

Budget cuts fo SUCs, hit

The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), the largest and the widest alliance of student governments in the country, hit the diminished budget for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) for the year 2011.

Student regents from the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UPD), Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Philippine Normal University (PNU), and the presidents of student councils in UPD, PNU, PUP-Taguig campus, and the Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute for Science and Technology (EARIST) in Manila, had issued a joint statement of dismay against the 1.7 percent cut in the budget for the 111 State-run tertiary level education institutions.

In th proposed national budget, the SUCs will receive only P23.08 billion, or 1.7% lower, compared to the budget last year.

Among the SUCs, the premier State University in the country, UP will only receive a measly P1.39 billion, which will be divided for different campuses of UP in Luzon, the Visayas and in Mindanao.

The teacher’s education hub, PNU will have their budget slashed by 23.59%.

MOOE for schools, slashed; no budget allocated for capital outlay

Citing the latest Kabataan Partylist study, the budget for th SUCs’ maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) was cut by P1 billion. On that same study, the Kabataan Partylist revealed that seven schools had their MOOE cut by almost 50% while 17 SUCs, by 10%.

Meanwhile, the NUSP had observed that in the proposed budget, there is none for the Capital Outlay or for the infrastructure and acquisition of new equipment.

“It is the full responsibility of the government to fund SUCs, that’s why they are called ‘public’ and ‘state’ in the first place. By saying that SUCs should be self-reliant by venturing into income generating projects, does the Aquino administration want zero responsibility in providing education to our youth?”, says UP Student Regent (SR) Cori Alessa Co.

On the other hand, PNU SR Mikko James Rodriguez explained that the deprivation of adequate funding for SUCs, including that of capital outlay, and Maintenanace and Other Operating budget, had been the primary cause for SUCs to venture into increasing tuition and other fees, and other income-generating measures, operating similarly as private higher educational institutions.

“Thus, it results to tuition and other fee increases, which hamper the Filipino youth to get a tertiary education,” he said.

On the other hand, PUP SR Sheryl Alapad said instead of cutting the SUC budget, we urge the government to prioritize education as our nation’s foundation, and allocate greater subsidy to the education sector, from public schools to SUCs.

To protest the cut in the education budget as a whole, the NUSP said that they will have a Nationwide Walkout Against Budget Cut on September 24, to press Pres. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to allocate more funds to education and other services. (written for AllVoices.com)