Press Release
November 15, 2016

Opening Statement
Plenary Debates
2017 National Budget

Senate Minority Leader Ralph G. Recto
15 November 2016

Thank you, Mr. President, thank you, Madame Chairperson.

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

The Chairperson is a well-known advocate of local weaves and indigenous textiles; and if I may liken this budget to the elegant ethnic dresses she likes to wear, then I can say that, thanks to her, it is as intricately made, and as beautifully woven.

It is not easy to weave this tapestry of spending. You have to fasten together thousands of threads, and hope that the finished product will be big enough to provide warm comfort to all.

Especially to the President, so that when he shows off this "tapestry of spending" next year, people will not be shouting "the Emperor has no clothes!"

Mr. President:

It has been said that we campaign in poetry, but govern in prose. The budget is the prose of governance.

It is the budget that translates rhetoric to reality. It redeems promises made. In governance, funds proposed in the budget speak louder than words.

The budget is also the annual expression of development plans. A program that is not funded remains marooned in fantasyland. The budget is what separates "drawing" from reality.

I agree with the good Chairperson when she emphasized in her sponsorship speech that the budget is more than a row of numbers.

Indeed, it is more than a spreadsheet, and should not be seen as an accounting ledger.

The conventional way of reading - and dissecting - the budget using the traditional PS-MOOE-CO-FINEX way, or disaggregating it by region, or by agencies, does not fully capture its importance to the Filipino.

It is more than an allocation for payroll, or an outlay for operating expenses, or how much will be set aside for travel, for gasoline, or for utilities.

It is more than a bill of particulars for roads to be paved, schools to be built, canals to be dug.

The conventional way to read the budget is to hold a magnifying glass over the fine print and peso signs.

But to better analyze it, the budget should be held up to higher exacting standards. In short, to view it from the prism of what we want to achieve as a nation.

It should be gauged by how many poor it would deliver from poverty, how many jobs it would create, how it will - and where it will - spur growth, how it will distribute opportunity, and how many people it will liberate from chronic hunger.

These are the checklists I will soon be asking from you, Madame Sponsor.

And I know that you will agree with me that although the biggest chunk of the budget funds overhead, its main objective, however, is how to overcome poverty and things that set us back from progressing.

So for P3.3 trillion, how many people will march away from the poverty line by December next year?

For P3.3 trillion, how many jobs will be created? Sa puntong ito, matagal na po akong proponent ng pagkakabit ng jobs odometer sa national budget.

For P3.3 trillion, how far will the GDP needle move?

I will be asking these, Mr. President, because in looking at the budget, it is not the size of investments that is important, but the impact. It is the yield that matters.

To truly measure a budget's efficacy, then we must subject it to the following test: its poverty-reducing, job-creating, growth-inducing potential.

The second framework I will be using in scrutinizing this budget is to situate it in the long-term program of this administration.

If the Duterte administration will be here for six years - and I have no doubt that it will, and I am not among those making daily novenas that it won't be able to - then this budget is the first of six annual installments it will be making.

In effect, this is the 15 percent downpayment of what you will spend, of what you hope to achieve, and deliver, by 2022.

You cannot divorce one GAA from the overall spending plan. In fact, this maiden GAA of yours is important, for it is not only the cornerstone in resource allocation but also sets the template.

I want to have a tunnel-end view so that we will know where the GAA for 2017 is in the overall scheme of things.

You know, planning myopia is an ingrained trait in our political culture.

We cannot see beyond five years. We treat a five-year plan as too long and too far into the future. Mabuti na lang ang NEDA, mayroong Ambisyon 2040.

Our planning cycle follows the election calendar. Kung sa local, ang gusto 1,000 days program, so much so that it creates bias for short-gestating projects that must be inauguration-ready in time to be milked for pogi points during the reelection period.

Eh hindi na magpapareelect ang Pangulong Digong, kaya gusto kong tanungin ang relasyon nitong 2017 budget sa mga bagay na gusto nyang magawa by 2022.

Six years from now, our population will grow from this year's 103.6 million to 114 million, meaning there will be 10.44 million more people to be fed, to be sheltered, to be cared for, to be schooled, to be kept safe.

Kung tataas ang populasyon, ganun din ang budget. Batay sa aking estimate, sa loob ng anim na taon, gagasta ang administrasyong Duterte ng tumataginting na P26.71 trillion.

In comparison, using straight computation, si PNoy P12.84 trillion ang ginasta. Si GMA mga P9.8 trillion.

Sa bigas na lang, kung bawat Pinoy na halos lahat ay mahilig sa unli rice ay kokonsumo ng 114 kilos kada taon, kailangan natin buksan sa irigasyon ang 475,000 hectares of land.

Sapat na ba ang initial downpayment sa 2017 upang makamit ang 2022 agricultural and nutritional goals para hindi lumaki lalo ang GNP or Gutom Na Pilipino?

Between now and 2022, we must be able to create 12 million jobs, or 2 million a year - quality jobs, hindi yung nagpastol ka ng isang kambing, counted ka na as gainfully-employed unpaid family worker. This data comes from NEDA so it is unimpeachable.

Ang tanong: Will this budget indeed be instrumental in generating 2 million jobs by December next year?

Ang isa pang target ay ang pag-gradweyt sa kahirapan ng 7.1 million Pinoys sa 2022. Mula 21.9 million poor noong nakaraang taon, pababain ito sa 14.8 million sa 2022.

Hindi naman ito isang bagsakan. Paunti-unti. Itaya na lang natin na isang milyon kada taon ang matatanggal sa hanay ng mahihirap, ang tanong: Paano magagawa ito ng P3.3 trillion na budget?

The budget is a poverty-crushing tool. In the dashboard of indicators on how effective the budget is, the ability to cut the number of poor ranks among the most important.

Sa edukasyon, kung taun-taon tataas ang DepEd student population ng konserbatibong 1.7 percent na lamang, nangangahulugan na pagsapit ng 2022, ang number of enrollees sa public schools ay tataas mula sa kasalukuyang 22.06 million to 24 million, o dagdag na 1.9406 million na batang estudyante.

Ang tanong: Sapat na ba ang downpayment na ilalagak ng 2017 national budget upang masabi nating on track tayo para sa educational goals 2022?

Isa pang tanong na nasa isip ng mga mamamayan na gising na bago tumilaok ang manok upang makarating sa opisina ng maaga, at hatinggabi na makakauwi, ay sapat na ba ang downpayment sa 2017 upang maibsan ang traffic?

So Mr. President, what lies ahead for this great country of ours will be the focus of my interpellation.

My queries will go beyond next year's budget cycle. Gusto ko makita ang kabuuan. Because government spending plans should not be confined to the time it would take the earth to revolve around the sun.

I know that we may never be precise in our projections as there is no such thing as an infallible crystal ball, but nonetheless, we must strive to predict our prospective requirements, so that we can match these with our revenue program, so that we can plan early on how to finance future needs, so that we can prepare for contingencies, so that we can realize our people's dreams.

This budget cannot be taken separately. It is the foundation of future expenditures.

I will also be focusing on revenues. And I am glad the man who will raise P9 billion a day next year to finance this budget is here.

In the government division of labor, while it is Ben Diokno who gets the credit in releasing the money, it is Sonny Dominguez who must raise the cash.

Let us not forget that appropriation is a mere downstream activity of revenue collection. It is taxation, which makes appropriation possible. The privilege to spend springs from the duty to collect taxes.

Yes, the budget presented to us today is a catalogue of expenditures. But because too often big numbers mesmerize us, we seem to overlook the important fine print, that every peso that will be spent will be collected from the people.

And yet, the legislative tradition is that when it comes to the appropriations bill, we only sponsor and highlight the expenditures. We seldom sponsor the revenues it would entail.

Kaya itatanong ko na rin, upang hindi mahirapan ang DOF, BIR at BOC, kung ano ba ang mga gastusin na pwede ipagpaliban, na pwede tipirin.

Perhaps, by cutting expenses, we could lighten the burden this budget will impose on our people.

Naku lalung-lalo na ngayon na mayroong pangamba sa pagkapanalo ng Duterte ng Amerika bilang Pangulo.

Should Trump be treated as a macroeconomic assumption, that I would like to ask from the economic managers.

And lastly Mr. President,

The minority will also be asking what guarantees are in place that will prevent the repeat of the scourge that was underspending which we saw in the just recent past.

How can we turbocharge the utilization, in a manner that will speed up spending without leaving the government shortchanged?

Mayroon bang incentives na ibigigay doon sa mga mabilis at maayos gumugol ng pondo? At ano naman ang mga presidential invectives na ipupukol sa mga mahina at makupad gumasta?

If our people pay taxes promptly, then the way they are reimbursed through this budget, which is said to be a catalog of rebates, must be done in a prompt manner too.

We owe it to them. There is no other way because budget delayed is development denied.

Mr. President, Madame Chairperson, thank you for enduring my abbreviated, truncated and very brief preliminary remarks. Tutal abbreviated din naman ang plenary debates, shortened to 5 days, kaya hinabaan ko na ang aking pasakalye.

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