Press Release
June 7, 2006

Civil society backs Senate in budget row, says 'GMA pork barrel' will be used in 2007 elections, cha-cha campaign

A total of 45 non-governmental organizations rallied behind the Senate in its row with Malacañang over the proposed 2006 budget and urged senators not to succumb to pressures from President Arroyo and her cronies in the House of Representatives to restore the budget cuts deemed to be "GMA's pork barrel funds."

The NGO leaders said that they were not buying Malacañang 's public pronouncements that the "President's pork barrel funds" would be used to finance pro-poor livelihood programs and expressed fears that the funds would eventually be diverted to finance the campaign of the administration's allies in the 2007 election and President Arroyo's current charter change initiative.

"The proposed 2006 National Government budget reeks of dubious allocations meant only to fortify GMA's political survival," the NGO leaders said.

In a petition letter submitted to Senate President Franklin Drilon, the 45 civil society groups organized under the Global Call to Action Against Poverty-Philippines (GCAP), the Education Network Philippines (ENP), the Social Watch Philippines (SWP) and the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), petitioned the Senate "to stand firm on the Senate's pronouncement to slash President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's 'pork funds' out of the P1.053 trillion 2006 National Budget in favor of additional resources for basic social services and the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program (AFMP)."

The letter was signed by Ma. Victoria Raquiza, national coordinator of GCAP- Philippines; Leonor Briones, convenor of SWP, and Leonora Protacio of ENP.

Reacting to the NGO petition, Drilon said he was glad that the Filipino people was aware that the Senate's decision to slash the 2006 budget was motivated by the desire to provide sound fiscal spending and good governance as well as help curb corruption in government.

Drilon said he would provide all Senators with a copy of the petition.

"The Senate's move is laudable as it brings to fore not only the pertinent governance issues but also the legislature's role in promoting the development needs of the country, "the NGO leaders said in the petition.

The NGO leaders said the Kalayaan Barangay Program fund amounting to P3 billion and the Kilos Asenso Program Fund amounting to P5 billion which the President said were allotted for grassroots development "are nothing but pork barrel funds for local government units to reward their loyalty and guarantee their support for smooth operation of GMA's charter change initiative."

"We also look up to you to be the representative of the poor and the socially excluded in terms of ensuring that the national budget be allocated in favor of the needs and demands of the people," the NGO leaders told the senators.

The NGO leaders also expressed its support to the Senate as it stands firm on this position in the ongoing bicameral hearing where members of the Lower House will be expected to push for the restoration of President's pork barrel funds meant for political patronage.

The NGO leaders noted that Senate's effort to allocate more funds to health, education and AFMP were very laudable. The budget given to these significant sectors has been grossly insufficient and dangerously decreasing under the Arroyo regime, they said.

According to the United Nations Human Development Report, in the Philippines, the education sector's share in the fiscal pie went down by 27.9 percent last year. It only spends 2.4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education while comparable countries within the medium human development bracket spend an average of 4.41 percent.

The Senate slashed by P26 billion the House-approved national budget, including the P3.7 billion Kilos Asenso Program Fund and the P3 billion Kalayaan Barangay Fund and allocated P4.6 billion more to the budget of the Department of Education.

The NGO leaders also asked the Senate to "direct its lenses at other dubious funds within the trillion peso national budget," including the P1.25 billion allocation to the Confidential and Intelligence Expenses (CAIE) wherein P650 million is under the full discretion of the Office of the President.

"Given the growing number of warrant less arrests, abductions and extra-judicial killings of critics of the Arroyo regime, a 2006 National Budget which includes the CAIE may mean greater political repression and the undermining of our political freedoms," they said.

Among the NGOs that signed the petition were Freedom from Debt Coalition, Social Watch Philippines, Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP-Philippines), Civil Society Network for Education Reforms (E-NET), Kilusang Mangingisda, AFRiM (Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao), Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Kabataan (ALYANSA), Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Bukluran sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa (BISIG), Confederation of Independent Unions (CIU), Fr. Archie Casey, SX, IDEALS, ISKOLAR Student Alliance (UP Manila), Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee (JPICC-AMRSP), KAALAGAD, Kababaihan sa Komunidad para sa Kaunlaran (KKK), Kabataan Kontra Kahirapan (KKK), KAISA Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (UP Diliman), Katipunan ng Samahang Maralita ng Kalunsuran (KASAMA-KA), Katipunan para sa Pagpapalaya ng Sambayanan (KALAYAAN!), Kilusan Para sa Makatarungang Lipunan at Gobyerno (KMLG), Koalisyong Pabahay ng Pilipinas (KPP), Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML), La Liga Policy Research, Lean L. Alejandro Foundation (LLAF), Legal Resource Center Kasama sa Kalikasan, Makabayang Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (MAKABAYAN-Pilipinas), Management and Organizational Development for Empowerment (MODE), Manila Danger Zone Alliance (MADZA), Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), PASCRES (Peoples Alternative Center in Research and Education), Philippine Network of Rural Development Institutes (PHILNET RDI), Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, Pinag-isang Lakas at Galaw ng Sambayanan, Inc. (PIGLAS Kababaihan), Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK), SANLAKAS, SANLAKAS Youth, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), Tambuyog Development Center (TAMBUYOG), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Womanhealth Philippines, Inc., Xavierian Missionaries.

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