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Explanation of NO Vote on House Bill 6455 (The General Appropriations Act of 2013)
Speech Posted on October 14th, 2012.
Mr. Speaker, this representation votes NO on HB 6455.
The administration and the House sponsors of HB 6455 are wont to call the proposed general appropriations act for 2013 as an ‘empowerment budget’.
In explaining why they call it an ‘empowerment budget’, its sponsors love to point out to the allocation increases for education, public works, health and social work, items in the proposed budget that are among the top ten departments. And they lead us to the expectation that with these allocation increases, we will have an ‘inclusive growth’ by 2013.
This ‘empowerment budget’ is notable for breaching the P2 trillion water mark. Of its P2.006 trillion expenditure program, some P409.8 billion will go to public works projects. But with the ‘public-private partnership’ as its overhead implementing strategy, this appropriations act follows the way of the discredited neo-liberal budgeting which aggrandizes the rich more so that, it is hoped, the poor will have their trickle share.
Following this neo-liberal budgeting, HB 6455 will give away some P409 billion of tax payers money to big business. In a word, Mr. Speaker, it is big business – the private sector – which stands to get empowered by this budget. This budget is never meant to empower the poor and the hungry of this country.
In the first place, as with the general appropriations act of this and past administrations, there is nothing in this budget that addresses the root causes of poverty of our people. The great majority of our people are poor because of landlessness, unemployment, and slave wages. They are poor because whatever little income they earn is being squeezed daily by high prices of basic commodities. These are the diseases of our society that require a major surgery to heal. But what this budget has is band aid.
The unkindest cut of all, its idea of inclusive growth is giving morsels for the poor. While filling the coffers of the private sector big business with big ticket projects, this budget fortifies the institutionalization of palliative-to-poverty programs, such as the CCT and Pamana, that offer but crumbs to the landless, unemployed, the homeless, the hungry and the sick - crumbs worth P39.5 billion to be shared at P1400/month by some 3.8 million poor households beneficiaries.
They say that the CCT is a human investment that could help the country fulfill its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. But without increasing the wages of our workers, without genuine land distribution and without controlling the prices of basic commodities, this human investment will not amount to empowerment of the poor. It will not even amount to any poverty alleviation.
Far from empowering the poor, the CCT and Pamana programs will only perpetuate poverty. And with perpetuated poverty, Mr. Speaker, comes perpetuated powerlessness and helplessness. The surveys will bear this out. After four years of CCT, we have not really seen any dramatic decrease of the country’s self-rated hungry and poor families.
Viewed through the window period 2008-2012, the number of self-rated poor and hunger incidence has hovered between 50 and 47%. In the third quarter this year, the self-rated hunger incidence even increased by 21%.
I note that the CCT is released to the account name of mothers and wives. I’m telling you, Mr. Speaker, that this is not women empowerment. In perpetuating poverty, this CCT is turning Filipino mothers and wives into beggars dependent on the crumbs from the government.
This budget will implement the K12 program next year even though the DepEd does not have the necessary infrastructure to meet the requirements for driving forward a program that will enormously add to our shortage of schools, classrooms, teachers, desks, and textbooks. Given our poor record of fulfilling these necessaries this year and in the past, I can foresee a disaster next year that will impact the most on our mothers and their children.
Right now, the pilot areas of K12 have been flooded with complaints from mothers because they have been made to cough up to as high as P900 for photocopying the scarce instructional materials for the added curriculum. The implementation of K12 program next year will reverse our efforts to make our basic education free as mandated by our Constitution.
But I take the strongest exception to the item in HB 6455 which allocates some P14.9 billion for the ‘resettlement for informal settler families’ in Metro Manila and the regions. Calling this budget item as ‘resettlement’ is a misnomer. To the 30,000 informal settler families targeted for ‘resettlement’ next year, this P14.9 billion is a demolition budget.
The GWP would like to reiterate its stand on the housing problem of the urban poor: demolition and resettlement are wrong approaches to a problem that is rooted in landlessness and unemployment. They are wrong because they apply violence on the problem of our urban poor and they uproot our urban poor from their livelihood. They are wrong because demolition and resettlement only transfer our urban poor to far flung relocation areas without amenities, without social services and badly-equipped to sustain life, resettlement areas where the urban poor problem remains but cannot be seen.
More than that, Mr. Speaker, the violence that demolition and resettlement inflict on our urban poor extends far beyond the act of demolishing their homes. And it is a kind of violence that is most severe on our mothers because it is on their shoulders where rests the primary task of reorganizing their homes and rebuilding their lives.