MANILA, Philippines – Will the 2016 polls affect the deliberations of the national budget?
Sen Nancy Binay said she and fellow senators of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) will scrutinize the budget of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the administration’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
Binay said that during the UNA senators’ meeting at the Coconut Palace on Thursday, July 11, the group discussed that the budget will be the first order of business when the 16th Congress opens on July 22.
Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen Juan Ponce Enrile were also present in the meeting.
Asked which particular agencies’ budget she wants to look into, the daughter of the Vice President identified the DILG and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“Siguro ang DSWD kasi ang mga social services [galing] doon sa agency na iyon. Tsaka kasama na siguro ang CCT at DILG. Kasi unang-una diba sanay ako sa local governments kasi for the longest time, ang father ko, ang mother ko naging mayor kaya malapit din sa puso ko,” Binay told Senate reporters.
(I guess DSWD because social services come from that agency. And also CCT and DILG because first of all, I am used to dealing with local governments because for the longest time, my father and mother were mayors so that’s close to my heart.)
Binay’s response prompted questions on whether her plan to scrutinize the DILG’s budget is related to her father’s 2016 presidential ambitions. After losing to Binay in 2010, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas is expected to again run against him in 2016.
“It has no political color,” Sen Binay said. “2016 is far away and we just finished the 2013 elections. My call is for us to just focus on work and not 2016. On scrutinizing DILG’s budget, that is part of work.”
Binay said whether senators belong to the majority or minority, it is their job to ensure that the budget benefits ordinary Filipinos.
President Benigno Aquino III approved a P2.268 trillion budget proposal for 2014.
“The President said he made the budget in a way that it will ensure inclusive growth so we will check if that will have a trickle down effect,” Sen Binay said.
CCT used for politics?
Binay and Acting Senate President Jinggoy Estrada said the minority bloc will also check the CCT’s budget, implementation and effectiveness.
A flagship anti-poverty program of the administration, the CCT provides cash grants to poor households tied to certain conditions like parents ensuring their children go to school.
Estrada said UNA will check reports that the CCT is being used to bankroll the campaign of administration allies.
“We do not know if the program is really successful or not. Sometimes like in the city of Manila alone, before the elections, they really poured money,” Estrada said in another interview.
Estrada’s father, former President Joseph Estrada, ran and won as mayor of Manila. He was up against Alfredo Lim of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
Asked if the plan meant a head-on collision with the administration, Estrada said UNA will remain constructive.
“We will not be obstructive. In the CCT program, we will check if it is really successful. If not, why waste billions of pesos for doleouts?”
The Senate minority will be composed of Enrile, Estrada, Binay, and Senators Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Gregorio Honasan II, and JV Ejercito. The group will field Enrile as Senate Minority Leader.
Still, Estrada said he will meet with likely Senate President Franklin Drilon of the LP next week.
“As minority members, I don’t think we have the right to choose our committees but I will have to talk to Sen Drilon. Maybe we will be given committees including the neophyte senators.”
Cancelled courtesy call
The next minority has vowed to be a solid group yet speculation persists of a rivalry between Estrada and his brother, Sen Ejercito.
On Thursday, Estrada said Ejercito was supposed to pay him a courtesy call but it did not push through. Estrada said Ejercito had another appointment.
“I informed a common friend since there are a lot of neophyte senators paying courtesy visits to me so I advised our common friend to tell him [to pay a courtesy call].”
Estrada though said he was not slighted that his brother did not show up.
“That’s the way it is. There’s nothing we can do,” Estrada said.
Ejercito has yet to respond to Rappler’s queries about the cancelled courtesy call.
The brothers were together in the UNA meeting and are expected to hold a joint press conference next week. – Rappler.com