MALACAÑANG will not stop or return the donation to the Bayanihan Fund, rebuking the warning by an opposition senator that the Arroyo administration is courting charges of estafa if the fund continues.
President Arroyo’s spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said the Palace does not see anything wrong with the Bayanihan Fund drive.
He said there are still those who would like to help the government deal with the fiscal problem and give their donation to raise the country’s revenues.
“We would like to thank those who have expressed their willingness to contribute to the Bayanihan Fund . . . their way of showing their cooperation and their spirit of sacrifice at the time when the country needs this,” Bunye, the concurrent press secretary, said.
On Monday opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. warned the administration that it faces possible estafa charges if it fails to return the contributions to the Bayanihan Fund.
Pimentel issued the warning after the President announced that the country is getting out of the fiscal crisis.
The brouhaha forced Speaker Jose de Venecia to again defend his initiative in the Bayanihan Fund. He described his role in the campaign as a “catalyst” to raise mostly private-sector contributions to help arrest the country’s huge deficit.
“Those were pledges, not cash, payable by check to the Bayanihan Fund upon completion of the guidelines by the Department of Finance under Secretary Juanita Amatong,” he said.
De Venecia said he merely catalyzed the idea of a campaign intended to raise about P200 million to P500 million that would be used for the purchase of computers and the building of more classrooms for millions of Filipino students, particularly in the provinces.
Part of the fund would be allocated for micro-financing entrepreneurship in the countryside, creating more jobs and controlling migration to urban centers.
“I catalyzed the idea—and the response from the people has been dramatic,” de Venecia said.
Senior House members, led by Majority Leader Prospero Nograles of Davao City and Rep. Aurelio Umali of Nueva Ecija, said the Bayanihan Fund “tapped into a vast reservoir of Filipino patriotism and sense of nationhood, and the donors’ response has been tremendous.”
Bunye said despite the improving fiscal situation, the efforts to raise revenues continue.
“I think we can still go ahead with this [Bayanihan] hand in hand with the other measures. The fiscal situation is abating but we still have to continue with the measures,” he said.
Besides, Bunye said the mechanisms for the Bayanihan Fund has already been put in place.
He said the fund will be deposited at the Bureau of Treasury and will be allocated depending on the preference of the donors or will be used for general purposes.
–With Maricel V. Cruz
Ma. Theresa Torres