3 cabinet members say Negros Occidental trip for work, not for campaign
NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Three members of President Benigno Aquino III's Cabinet were in the province Saturday, March 12, to meet with the beneficiaries of the Bottom-Up-Budgeting (BuB) program and Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the national government.
Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman and Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad insisted that the various meetings with barangay officials and civic societies in Bacolod City and Silay City had nothing to do with the presidential bid of Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas.
However, venues – where the secretaries were scheduled for speaking engagements – were not opened for the local media.
Abad, when pressed if their visit has nothing to do in politics, said “there is no harm in that because we are not prevented from doing campaigning. Well, inevitably, that question comes, but the message of the President is these past 6 years, nobody will argue, especially here in Negros, that things have changed dramatically from roads, infrastructure, and social service.”
“If you make a mistake in 2016, those gains can be reversed in one day, all the hard work in 6 years. Sabi nga ng presidente, you should ensure that there should be continuity. So, I just blink my eye after that,” Abad said.
Government has huge advantage
Abad said that recent presidential surveys are “all statistically tied.”
“Let’s throw everything outside. They have used social media, they have used ads, they are all still type. But what will make the difference? Ground troops and the government have a huge advantage because it is the incumbent government,” Abad pointed out.
He said that the government has “majority of the governors, congressmen, the mayors, and it has a lot of support from civil society organizations. The other candidates don’t have that... So now, really the fight is on the ground and who has the most formidable ground infrastructure?”
He added: “That is the case. Now, they are all punched out together, but what will make the difference? For me, it’s the ground and who will have the advantage? That is the difference.”
When asked if who is Roxas’ toughest competitor, the budget secretary said that “the 3 [referring to Roxas' opponents] are exchanging votes but Mar is constant. Once the locals start moving, that will make the difference. You will see his numbers will go up in April.”
Part of budget process
Sarmiento downplayed the reports that their visit in the province is to campaign for Roxas. “We’re doing consultations. We have to prepare the budget.”
He explained that the budget process of the national government for 2017 started on January 1. By June, it should have been approved by the Office of the President and that the budget should already be ready after the SONA (State of the Nation Address).
He added that they have to make sure that everything included in the budget is base on the people’s need.
Sarmiento reiterated that there is no politics. “We’re just doing our work. We’re just doing the budget.”
For her part, Soliman also stressed there is no politics. “First of all, these programs were implemented before election time. It started since the beginning of President Aquino’s term.”
She reiterated they are just checking what to improve in the programs that they have already been implementing “para sa transition, maliwanag (so it is clear during the transition).”
“Obviously, (to) bring home the point that itong lahat ay bunga ng Daan Matuwid (these are all the fruits of Daan Matuwid),” Soliman said.
So no politics? “Well, all actions are political nowadays,” she quipped.
Orientation and consultation
Meanwhile, Abad said that they are cascading the BUBs initially in barangay level “We have been doing it in the municipal level and just this year, in the provincial level.”
“We are trying to see if we are doing it in the barangay level. So, we are here both for an orientation and consultation,” he added.
Abad said they have been going around since last year because “the President told us that you know you have to go out there. You know the black propaganda against the administration is very strong, especially in Metro Manila and it is not giving the administration a good image and it’s not presenting the programs fairly. So, part of the reason is to tell people what is happening.”
He said the consultation is how they are going to choose the barangays that can be qualified, because it is not easy. Almot 95% of barangays, he added, have internal revenue allotment (IRA) that is P3 million or less ($64,559)*.
“Meaning, they just have enough money for honorarium and overhead, but they don’t have money for undertaking projects. So, many of them don’t have an experience. You cannot give them a million bucks and expect them to do well," he explained.
"Therefore, you have to identify which barangays can qualify initially and which barangays, if in case they cannot undertake projects, are also qualified to undergo training and capacity building," Abad added. – Rappler.com
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