By Totel V. de Jesus | INQUIRER.net, Radyo Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Both may have come from opposing socio-political backgrounds, had been known in the past as “the-son-of”, always measured by the achievements of their fathers but on Tuesday night at the booth of DZIQ Radyo Inquirer, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. and Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio of the militant Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) found themselves on equal footing and paddling the same boat.
They were guests of DZIQ “Special Report,” the show hosted by veteran journalist-broadcaster Tess Lardizabal, who was joined in by guest interviewer, Inquirer.net executive editor Lynette Luna.
Senator Marcos, who needs no introduction, and Representative Tinio, son of National Artist for Literature Rolando Tinio, are one in questioning the ballooned P21.1 billion Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program of the Aquino administration. In the previous administration, the budget was P10 billion.
“When I left the Senate at 5 p.m., they were still interpolating the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (the government agency assigned to facilitate the CCT), because we’re talking about big money here,” said Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on local government, urban planning, housing and resettlement.
The Senate is debating on the passage of House Bill No. 3101, the General Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2011 or more popularly known as the proposed 2011 National Budget. Marcos specifically questioned why the budget on basic services like agriculture, infrastructure, health care and education were cut and transferred to social services.
“I am not against the CCT, for me it’s OK even though it offers short-term solution to poverty alleviation. Still, what matters are long-term solutions like food security, energy sources, job generation and infrastructure. The people can’t just rely on CCT forever,” he said in Filipino.
Asked on the flaws of the CCT, Marcos revealed there were no concrete details on how the program is going to be implemented. For one, he cited the agency tasked to implement it, the DSWD, has officers only up to the regional levels.
“So who will monitor on the local government levels? And even if there are people trained to do that, how are we to know if a chosen family will comply with the requirements? If a child actually goes to school or a pregnant woman regularly undergoes medical check-up? In the first place, how sure are we that the surveys conducted on which families are deserving of the program are accurate?” Marcos said.
He proposed that the P21.1 billion should be reduced and realigned appropriate funds to basic services.
“It’s simple. How can you implement the CCT if a child has schools lacking in classrooms? How can a pregnant woman avail of medical services if you have hospitals with no doctors or appropriate facilities to speak of?” Marcos said.
Tinio agreed, citing the surveys conducted by ACT. “We still need 100,000 teachers and 150,000 classrooms and the Department of Education pointed out it needs an additional P150 billion to fulfil those shortages,” said Tinio.
He also revealed how the operations budget of the Philippine General Hospital was slashed by P140 million this year. “Annually, the PGH benefits one million patients, 90 percent of whom come from the poorest of the poor.”
Tinio asked for a more organized implementation of the CCT. He cited the case of Brazil, where the CCT program is closely monitored and more systematized.
Marcos expressed fears that the CCT program will invite corruption. He said if only one percent of the P21.1 billion is mismanaged, it means P210 million lost from the national coffers. “Think of how many classrooms or roads or medical facilities can P210 million buy? And that’s only one percent,” he said.
For his parting words, Marcos said the problem basically lies on the absorption capacity of the present system. Yet he remains optimistic, saying, “There’s still time to fix this in the bicameral committee. What’s lacking in the program, we can still find solutions.”
The CCT program, being one of the flagship programs of the Aquino administration, aims to benefit 1.3 million families in 2011.