By Hannah Torregoza, August 8 2018; Manila Bulletin


Image Credit to Rappler

Senators on Wednesday questioned state economic managers why an allotment of a P90-million budget for the information dissemination of federalism has already been set aside when Congress has not even approved it.

Senator Francis Escudero (Francis (Chiz) Escudero Official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Francis Escudero (Francis (Chiz) Escudero Official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Francis Escudero raised the question during the hearing on the proposed 2019 budget.

“Under the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) ruling, I don’t recall an item in the budget on 2018 for the information dissemination campaign for federalism. But according to (Communications) Secretary (Martin) Andanar, he aligned from their saving P90-million for this purpose,” Escudero pointed out.

“Under the DAP ruling, there must be an item in the budget,” the senator said referring to the Supreme Court decision that affirms the DAP unconstitutional.

“Wala pa ngang approved federalism, ano ang kinakampanya natin? We don’t even know what shape, size, color, or form it is. What will we disseminate? If we’re at it,” Escudero pointed out.

Escudero said it goes beyond logic for the government to program P90-million to disseminate information on a topic that has yet to be approved by the people.

“Hindi ba dapat ang i-disseminate natin kung anon a yung aprubado na nung tao? Hindi yung ano pa lamang ang pinagde debatihan na pwedeng mabago completely? Yun ang ilalagay natin? Again, that goes beyond logic of a programmed spending and planned spending on the part of the government,” he pointed out.

At this point, Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, urged the government economic team to provide the panel with a comprehensive report on federalism on direct and indirect cost and impact of the implementation of projects.

Senator Loren Legarda (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Loren Legarda (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

“We’re not even sure if were’ changing. We’re not even sure how many regional governments or how many senators or representatives of people from every region. How many regions? Because it (federalism) will increase the number of regions,” Legarda pointed out.

But National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Socioeconomic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia told senators that even the economic team do not see the draft Constitution on federalism submitted by the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) as economically sound.

According to Pernia, NEDA’s rough estimate is P120-billion, just on the direct cost. But they consider the disruption in government operations as one sample of “indirect cost.”

But as far as they are concerned the draft federal charter “as it is right now, doesn’t lend itself for financial analysis,” Pernia said during the Senate hearing.

Pernia said that when they sat down with members of the Con-Com and questioned how the national government would pay the military, foreign officials, central bank and other primary institutions, they were confused.

“How can we compute? We don’t know what the final roadmap is going to look like. I had a long discussion with them and I was more confused than when I started,” Pernia said responding to Legarda.

Asked by Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon if they would vote against the draft federalism charter when it is presented to the people, Pernia responded: “Absolutely, yes.”

“It is good that it is being discussed, by the wise legislators,” Pernia added.

To this, Legarda agreed and said “there is no more need for more confusion in the country.”

“There’s so much confusion and chaos already. The buzzwords I hear are that projects will flow down and there’s confusion and chaos. We don’t need slowing down of projects and chaos in this country. We need order and progress and jobs for people in the grassroots.

“So if the economic team cannot even tell the Senate how much it will probably cost government, then, we discuss (it). Fine, anything can be discussed in a democratic space, but will we prioritize it? We don’t want to hack to any confusion into our people. We don’t want to hack in slow down of projects, we want ‘Build, build, build.’ We don’t like slow projects,” Legarda reiterated.

Legarda said she also echoes Escudero’s view that the government should conduct any information drive on federalism in a respectable manner.

“I agree with Senator Chiz that 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,” Legarda reiterated.

The government earlier earned flak after the Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson launched a lewd video about federalism on social media that went viral among netizens.

In the video, Uson was seen supporting her friend, and a pro-Duterte blogger, Andrew Olivar, who was dancing and signing a federalism jingle they entitled “Pepedederalismo” while gesturing to his private parts.