Protests set as Senate railroads passage of 2012 budget
Organizations under Kilos Na Laban sa Budget Cuts alliance condemned the Senate’s passage of the 2012 national budget and called for nationwide protests against the “twisted (baluktot)” and “anti-people” budget of the Aquino government.
Groups said Aquino allies in the Senate has “railroaded” the budget, passing it without major changes in the allocation for SUCs, health and other social services.
“We condemn the Senate railroading of Aquino’s 2012 budget, which included cuts in SUCs and social services. As per sources in Senate, there were no major changes in the allocation for SUCs, proposed cuts were approved and no major addition to budget of health and other social services,” said a statement released by Kilos Na Laban sa Budget Cuts, an alliance of more than 100 organizations from various sectors nationwide.
They assailed the statements of majority Senators claiming that budget they passed is “biased for the poor.”
The groups are “extremely disappointed” that “despite widespread protests, budget remains in favor of debt servicing, profits, dole-outs and military.”
“The 2012 budget is anti-people and is far from being a ‘reform budget.’” the statement said.
“Contrary to statements from Aquino’s allies in the Senate, the 2012 budget is anti-poor, pro-privatization and does nothing to improve lack of social services and the country’s deteriorating economy,” according to a statement on the website of Migrante International.
State schools budget slashed
Previously, state universities and colleges (SUCs) held nationwide protests calling for a “rechannel” of significant government spending for SUCs and social services.
In the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2012 or the budget proposal submitted by the Aquino government to congress, P21.8 billion was allotted for 110 SUCs, far from the more than P45 billion requested by the SUCs. This is lower than the this year’s SUC budget of P22.03 million.
Fifty schools will have their total budget slashed by more than P500 million, 45 will have cuts in their MOOE funds by P250 million, and 58 will have cuts in Personal Services (PS) by P400 million. Allotment for capital outlay is zero.
The Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) earlier asked the Senate at the minimum to rechannel the P500 million allotted to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for SUCs, and the P2 billion allotted under Miscellaneaous Personal Benefits Fund (MPBF).
According to sources, Aquino allies in the Senate even tried to slash the budget further. The budget later on adopted the house version which reflected an additional P200M for a particular item for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) which is under the budget of University of the Philippines (UP).
Ultimately, the cuts were affirmed and no significant changes in the budget for SUCs were approved.
Scrimping on social services
The Senate approved budget reflected meager spending for social services. Despite claims by the Aquino administration that education is “top priority,” P238 billion for basic education is actually only 2.7% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), far from 6% the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommends.
The 2012 health budget, which at P42 billion is a shocking 0.5% of the GDP, as compared to the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended of also 6%.
Meanwhile, debt servicing remains the priority with next year’s debt payments standing at P735.6 billion, dwarfing the combined funding of all social services for 2012 which is P575.8 billion.
This “misallocation,” the groups say, show that the budget is not biased for the poor but for the foreign creditors and profits of corporations.
Meager migrant funds
“The 2012 budget reflects Aquino’s priorities in governance and economy – privatization in favor of big businesses, subservience to foreign interests, a more catastrophic implementation of a labor export policy, and intensified counter-insurgency at the expense of a just and lasting peace,” said Migrante International.
Migrante said that aggregate funds for direct OFW services in concerned agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and other affixed agencies remain less than one (1) percent of the total P1.8 trillion 2012 national budget. Budget on items for welfare and services and reintegration for OFWs, which was slashed earlier, were not given additional allocation.
Days of Rage
The various groups are calling for “strikes, marches, and mass protests.” They are also calling for “Days of Rage” on November 24-25 and “protest barrage” at the bicam meetings.
A nationwide camp-out protest during the first week of December is also being set against “the rotten ruling system favoring the few and further oppressing the majority.” Themed along “occupy” lines, plans are being drawn for days of mass protests.
“This is greater reason to protest. We cannot sit idly by while people are being robbed of their rights,” the groups said.