MANILA, Philippines – The daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay questioned the housing program of the department run by her father’s political rival, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
Senator Nancy Binay asked for the legal basis of the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) housing program for informal settlers during budget deliberations at the Senate on Monday, November 25. Roxas was present during the deliberations.
Binay pointed out that the National Housing Authority (NHA) headed by her father has the mandate to lead housing programs. She questioned the P700-million budget of the DILG to relocate informal settlers in Metro Manila.
The senator cited Executive Order No. 90, a law passed during the administration of President Corazon Aquino.
“The NHA shall be the sole government agency engaged in the direct shelter program. Can we know what is the enabling law or legal basis for DILG to engage in the construction of micro-medium rise buildings under the housing program for informal settler families in danger areas in Metro Manila,” said Binay.
Senator Francis Escudero, Senate Finance Committee chairman who was presenting the DILG budget, said the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) authorizes local government units in coordination with the NHA to oversee resettlement.
Binay said, “But under the UDHA, the NHA is tasked to provide technical and other forms of assistance to LGUs (local government units) in the implementation of their housing programs.”
Escudero then quoted Roxas and said, “This is non-exclusive. According to the good secretary, it simply states [the NHA] is primarily tasked with it but without being exclusive.”
The finance chairman also cited the Administrative Code and Memorandum No 57, saying the President has the power to reorganize government and the functions of agencies.
Binay’s questions come after fellow Senate minority member Sen Jinggoy Estrada last week accused the administration of playing politics in giving the NHA zero budget for relocation in Metro Manila. In contrast, Estrada said the DILG has a P1.2-billion budget for housing program for informal settlers.
Estrada said then, “Ano ba ang ibig palabasin ng gobyernong ito? They do not want the NHA to succeed? …. Eh function ng NHA ito, hindi naman function ng DILG ito. Just because Vice President Binay and Secretary Mar Roxas are at odds with each other, papaboran ‘yung isa?”
(What does the government want to show? This is the NHA’s function, not the DILG’s. Just because Vice President Binay and Secretary Mar Roxas are at odds with each other, they will favor the other?)
Binay beat Roxas for the vice presidency in 2010. They are expected to again compete in the 2016 presidential race. Roxas is the president-on-leave of the ruling Liberal Party while Binay is the founder of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
‘LGUs involved so DILG is lead’
In an interview after the budget deliberations on Monday, Roxas rejected allegations that the budget allocations were politicized.
“Let me just clarify. This mandate is with the DILG even before I headed the department. Since 2011, that has been the program of the government. Those who are putting a political color here, they are the ones you should ask. We are just doing our job and what has been assigned to us to do,” Roxas told reporters.
Roxas explained that the P700 million in the DILG budget was aimed to relocate informal settler families living near geohazard waterways. He said President Benigno Aquino III ordered the relocation, citing the high risk the families face during floods. The program began 5 months ago.
Asked why the DILG, not the NHA, should take the lead, Roxas said, “Because LGUs are involved. According to UDHA, it’s the LGUs’ responsibility so as the interior and local government department, we are the ones with contact to the LGU to respond to this.”
Despite the questions from the Senate minority, the Senate approved the DILG’s P100- billion proposed budget for 2014.
Even climate change, water under DILG?
During the budget deliberations, Deputy Senate Minority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III raised a point the opposition has been making even during budget hearings in the House of Representatives – that the DILG has a budget for climate change, water and peace process programs even when these functions are supposedly beyond its responsibility.
Escudero sought to explain the legal basis. The senator said the Local Government Code gives the DILG the power to implement water programs while the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act is the basis for the department’s climate change projects.
As for the government’s PAMANA Program for conflict-affected areas, Escudero said, “This covers local roads, an important component of the peace process are these local roads to be implemented by the LGUs in respective areas.”
In the interview, Roxas explained that the climate change program entails seminars and technical assistance for LGUs.
“They are [on] the frontlines of the disaster risk reduction and management system. They are the first responders and they know the terrain, condition. The national government is there to support them. It is important the first responders are strong.”
During budget deliberations at the House, UNA also questioned the DILG’s budget, saying the agency should just focus on peace and order instead of taking on other functions and an additional budget that may be used for politics.
“Why would we give extra appropriation to DILG on budgetary support for housing, water system and climate change when there are already budgetary support to key government agencies already handling these concerns,” said UNA secretary-general Navotas Rep Toby Tiangco.
“Climate change at pabahay (housing) ba ang core competence ng DILG?” – Rappler.com