Senators question P90-M budget for federalism info drive

MANILA, Philippines – Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero questioned the country's economic managers on the P90-million budget for the information drive on federalism, following the lewd video of dancer-turned-government official Mocha Uson

During the budget briefing at the Senate  on Wednesday, August 8, Escudero asked the government economic team on how much it will cost to shift to a federal system of government. (READ: Additional P44B to P72B needed for federalism shift – gov't think tank)

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the "rough estimate" is around P120 billion in direct costs. Her added there are also the “indirect costs” of federalism, such as the disruption in government operations.

Escudero questioned why there were already funds allocated for information dissemination when it is not clear what specific type of federalism the government was looking into.

Wala pa ngang approved federalism. Ano'ng ikakampanya natin (There’s no approved federalism yet. What are we going to campaign for)? We don’t even know in what shape, size, color, or form that is. What will we disseminate?” Escudero asked.

Saan hong item chinarge 'yun (Where was that charged), under the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) ruling? I don’t recall an item in the budget for 2018 on the information dissemination campaign for federalism,” he said.

Legarda, Senate finance committee chair, backed Escudero and said the information drive should be done properly.

“When we utilize taxpayers money for information dissemination, it must be based on careful, comprehensive study and research and it should be done in a manner that derives respect from our constituents,” she said.

The senators made the comments after a controversial and lewd video of Palace Communications Assistant Secretary Uson went viral. In the video, her co-host was seen singing "I-pepe" and "I-dede" while dancing and gesturing to his crotch and chest areas. "Pepe" and "dede" are colloquial words for vagina and breast, respectively.

Senators slammed the move and demanded an explanation from the Presidential Communications Operations Office, while other lawmakers called for a zero budget  for the PCOO.

Senators have also found allies in Duterte's economic managers against federalism. They reiterated their concerns during the hearing, with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III saying he would vote against it if a plebiscite were conducted now. (READ: Joint voting on Cha-Cha? Senate's problems, plans against it)

Dominguez also said the current draft constitution of the Consultative Committee is "confusing," making it difficult for them to do financial analysis. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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