DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman is obviously traumatized by the suffering she had seen in Tacloban and other places devastated by Yolanda and should be sent back to home office for “stress debriefing.”
While she is at the home office, she might find time to look at problems besetting the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, which Sen. Chiz Escudero once called “Dinky’s Dole-out.” (Say, has Senator Chiz changed his tune now that he’s sponsoring the DSWD budget as chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance?)
Our part-time family driver said that his wife hasn’t received her supposedly monthly assistance for CCT or 4Ps for the last three months. A lady farmer with four daughters of school age from my barangay in Lupao, Nueva Ecija said her situation was even worse—she hasn’t received a single peso in the last seven months. I’m sure thousands of other CCT recipients are suffering the same fate.
Why should the DSWD discontinue the remittance to CCT recipients when the program is fully funded for the entire year? And what will happen to the unremitted funds? Will they be classified as “savings” at year-end? Or, will the recipients be given “back pays?” I hope the Senate will look at this issue before it approves the 2014 budget of the DSWD.
Senate steals House’s thunder
Speaking of the budget, it looks like the Senate has stolen the thunder from the House.
The Constitution says all appropriations measures should emanate from the House but this has not prevented Senate President Franklin M. Drilon (FMD) from filing one ahead of the House. FMD has filed Senate Bill 1938 seeking a P14.5-billion supplemental budget for fiscal year 2013 to provide additional funds for various infrastructures heavily damaged by recent calamities, particularly Super Typhoon Yolanda.
The Senate’s hearings on the National Expenditure Program (NEP proposed by Malacañang even while the House has not yet passed the General Appropriations Bill could not be used as justification. In this instance, there’s no Senate bill filed before the NEP hearings. But what’s worse than the precipitate filing of the Senate bill on supplemental budget is FMD’s declaration that the P14.5 billion would be sourced from the unspent Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations for 2013, which was recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
I’m no lawyer but didn’t the SC issue a restraining order on September 10 stopping the release of the unspent amount from PDAF? And didn’t this order become permanent when the SC declared the PDAF unconstitutional? In fact, as reported by Times senior reporter Jomar Canlas, SC Associate Justice Arturo Brion wanted Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to be cited for contempt for violating the TRO on the release of the remaining PDAF funds.
(Abad issued a DBM Circular Letter on September 27, or 17 days after the SC TRO, authorizing implementing agencies to continue implementing PDAF projects.)
So, if the SC ruling is to be faithfully followed, the unspent PDAF allocations for 2013 could not be the source of the P14.5-billion supplementary budget for the year as wanted by FMD. (Again, this stands for Franklin Magtunao Drilon, not Foot and Mouth Disease.)
Foreign help for victims
Before Congress acts on a supplemental budget for 2013, it must first determine if there’s enough fund left from the lump-sum funds of President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino 3rd and from foreign donations to the Yolanda catastrophe. I remember that BS Aquino had previously tried to play down foreign assistance for Yolanda, saying grandly that the Philippines could cope with the devastation.
Speaking of foreign assistance, repacking by DSWD isn’t the only issue raising eyebrows.
(Repacking to ensure that food items are fit for human consumption, as explained by Soliman, insults foreign donors, aside from delaying the delivery of the items.)
Another issue that is cropping is: how much really was donated by foreign countries?
The Department of Foreign Affairs said that 51 countries have donated over P12.9 billion to Yolanda victims.
This was contested by one Mark Hamilton who called the DFA figure either inaccurate or outdated. In a letter to The Manila Times, Hamilton said:”The British public has donated more than 55 million Pounds ($88.8 million) in addition to the British government’s 35 million Pounds ($56.5 million). That totals more than P6.4 billion and about half of the total you reported.”
Another MT reader, Elfee Mulawin, noted that the United States alone had already donated $47 million in cash.
“How about the 50 other countries?” Mulawin asked, while urging more transparency in reports on cash and relief goods donated by foreign countries.
Incidentally, it looks like US assistance for Yolanda victims will extend up to February. The US Navy is already seeking volunteers from its sailors who speak Tagalog for assignment to Tacloban from December to February.