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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM MALAYA

EDITORIAL: EXPOSING PRESIDENTIAL BETS


MARCH 17 -EDITORIAL CARTOON FROM THE BOHOL CHRONICLE SPEAKER Sonny Belmonte has challenged all presidential candidates to make public their health status and their personal net worth underscoring the need for transparency in light of the tough demands of the highest public office. While the idea is certainly not new, it should not be simply dismissed as ridiculous or unreasonable. In fact, with the current selection before us, ascertaining that a president will be healthy enough in mind and body to serve the full six years makes a lot of sense. Of the five aspirants busy courting voters’ favor in May, three are septuagenarians: Vice President Jejomar Binay is 73, Senator Miriam Santiago is 70, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is turning 71 in 11 days. If any of them wins, he or she will break the record of former President Fidel Ramos who was the oldest president-elect at 64 when he succeeded Corazon Aquino in 1992. Obviously, selecting a younger candidate is not a sure-fire guarantee of making the best choice. If relative inexperience is a valid criticism against Senator Grace Poe, then the opposite must likewise hold true of her more senior opponents. READ MORE...

ALSO By Ellen Tordesillas: GAME CHANGERS - SC DECISION ON POE & AMLC REPORT ON BINAY


MARCH 18 -By Ellen Tordesillas
NEXT week’s surveys should give us a clearer picture of the sentiments of the Filipino voters. By then, we would know whose campaign is struggling and whose campaign is pulling away. The latest surveys that we got this week (Pulse Asia for ABS-CBN) which put Grace Poe leading (28 percent) with just a few percentage points over Rodrigo Duterte (24 percent), who dislodged Jejomar Binay (21 percent) in second place and Mar Roxas closely following with 20 percent, was conducted a few days before the Supreme Court declared that Poe is qualified to run for the presidency of the Philippines. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, by the way, held on to her 3 percent. The survey was conducted March 1 to 6 while the Supreme Court decision on Poe was released March 8. The Magdalo survey conducted March 2-4 also had the same result: Poe, 31 percent; Duterte, 29.5; Binay, 21.5 ; Roxas, 14.3; and Santiago, 3.3. Even before the High Court’s decision that removed a heavy cloud over Poe’s candidacy for president, she was already recovering from the dip that the Commission on Election decision to disqualify her had caused. It was a two percentage points increase from 26 percent that she registered in the Feb. 16 to 27 survey that Pulse Asia also conducted for ABS-CBN. Also, even more than a week ago, Binay’s “recovery” seems to have stopped. From 24 per cent last February, he slid down to 21 percent first week of March, allowing Duterte who gained two percentage points to overtake him in second place. No wonder, Duterte, who was noticeably soft on Binay before, has joined the call for the vice president to answer the report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council that he amassed “billions” from infrastructure projects and hid it through bank accounts of dummies. The AMLC report, as reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, also revealed that Binay in October 2014, sent to an account in Hong Kong P100 million through Philrem Service Corp, a money remittance company, that is currently embroiled in the $81 million hacking of the Bangladesh Bank account with the US Federal Reserve and money laundering scandal involving a Philippine bank. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Rejecting ‘No Elections’


MARCH 11 -GMA NEWS NETWORK IMAGES POLITICAL analysts and plain citizens have noted with differing emotions the resolutions on the two erstwhile pending cases in the Supreme Court that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) lost on the same day Wednesday. First, the High Court overturned a Comelec ruling that Sen. Grace Poe cannot pursue her candidacy for president because of lack of residency in the country and questions on her being a natural-born Filipino citizen. Second, the High Tribunal ordered the poll body to have its vote counting machines (VCM) issue a thermal-paper printout of votes counted in every ballot, some sort of a receipt for the voter to be reassured that his or her vote was counted. Months of preparation for the national and local elections on May 9 may be put to naught if the Comelec cannot comply with the Supreme Court’s demand on the second case. Days before the decision on the petition asking for vote receipts filed by senatorial candidate Richard Gordon, the Comelec had been adamant in its position not to issue the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). They said it would open up opportunities for vote selling and vote buying. Also, the issuance of receipts will lengthen the allotted time for voting. Now, with the latest Supreme Court ruling, the Comelec is pressed for time in tweaking its poll preparations. But because the SC decision is final – and the High Tribunal is the final arbiter on the issue – it has no choice but to comply. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Rey Arcilla - ALMENDRAS


MARCH 15 -By Rey Arcilla Also two weeks ago, I said it wouldn’t really matter who future ex-President Noynoy Aquino would appoint as foreign secretary. With only three and a half months left in this administration, there really is no earthshaking initiative that acting secretary Rene Almendras can take – unless he declares war against China or, better still, gives notices of termination to the US of the abominable VFA and EDCA. The rumor that Almendras was appointed to pursue the proposal he made when he was energy secretary some three years ago to allow China to conduct oil exploration in the disputed Spratlys is, I think, no longer feasible at this time, certainly not while his immediate predecessor is still shooting his mouth off about Chinese aggressive designs. China would rather wait for the next administration. There is one thing though that Almendras can do – remove the juvenile, silly and outlandish giant smiley pasted by his predecessor at the main entrance of the DFA Building on Roxas Boulevard to restore the dignified and sober image of the Foreign Office. But after praising his predecessor to the high heavens, will he do it? To paraphrase Noynoy’s favorite Frank Sinatra song, let’s watch what happens. PLEASE READ THIS COLUMN FROM THE BEGINNING...

ALSO: By Benjamin Diokno - DEEPENING POVERTY


MARCH 21 -By Benjamin Diokno
The first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is to halve poverty incidence by 2015. For the Philippines this means reducing poverty incidence from 34.4 percent in 1991 to 17.2 percent in 2015. Now, it can be told: the Philippines will miss this MDG goal, despite the above normal economic growth during the last four years. By contrast, the same goal has been reached globally in 2000, five years ahead of schedule. Closer to home, our Asean-6 neighbors – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- have met this lofty goal many years ago. *** During the last 10 years, nothing much has changed: more than one in four Filipinos is poor. In 2006, the proportion of poor people was 26.6 percent; it barely improved to 26.3 percent in 2009. Assuming steady improvement in the war against poverty, poverty incidence should shrink by 0.72 percent annually. Using the 26.3 percent in 2009 as a starting point for the Aquino III administration, the proportion of poor people should be 24.1 percent in 2012 and 22 percent in 2015. Yet, official Family Income and Expenditures Survey results show that poverty incidence was much higher than target: it was 25.2 percent in 2012 and 26.3 percent in 2015. But given that population continues to grow rapidly, with the proportion of poor people basically unchanged, more Filipinos are poorer now than before! It is tempting to blame the Asian financial crisis and the recent Global Recession for missing the target. But our Asean-6 neighbors went through the same crises, some even worse than what the Philippines had experienced, yet they managed to half poverty incidence many years ahead of schedule. The only reasonable conclusion is that the Philippines’neighboring countries must be doing something right while we continue to muddle through. And here’s another twist: when the Philippines committed to halving poverty by 2015, the massive spending for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program was not even in the realm of policy options. But from 2011 to 2015, the Aquino government has flooded the urban and rural communities with some P229 billion worth of cash transfers. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL: Exposing presidential bets


EDITORIAL CARTOON FROM THE BOHOL CHRONICLE

MANILA, MARCH 21, 2016 (MALAYA) March 17, 2016 - SPEAKER Sonny Belmonte has challenged all presidential candidates to make public their health status and their personal net worth underscoring the need for transparency in light of the tough demands of the highest public office.

While the idea is certainly not new, it should not be simply dismissed as ridiculous or unreasonable.

In fact, with the current selection before us, ascertaining that a president will be healthy enough in mind and body to serve the full six years makes a lot of sense.

Of the five aspirants busy courting voters’ favor in May, three are septuagenarians: Vice President Jejomar Binay is 73, Senator Miriam Santiago is 70, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is turning 71 in 11 days. If any of them wins, he or she will break the record of former President Fidel Ramos who was the oldest president-elect at 64 when he succeeded Corazon Aquino in 1992.

Obviously, selecting a younger candidate is not a sure-fire guarantee of making the best choice.

If relative inexperience is a valid criticism against Senator Grace Poe, then the opposite must likewise hold true of her more senior opponents.

READ MORE...

And yet even before the campaign officially kicked off, two of the elder bets already admitted to having health issues even as they ridiculed suggestions to make public their health records taking refuge behind the very basic qualifications required of a president.

Other than the issue of health, of no less importance is transparency in a candidate’s legitimate financial assets and business interests.

In so many variations of a singular subject, each presidential bet has promised to fight corruption. Such campaign spiels would sound hollow if they downright refuse to make a full disclosure of their personal wealth.

That said, we would not be surprised if all of the candidates would turn a deaf ear to Belmonte’s challenge.

They would not be politicians if they have not learned to dodge these kinds of questions.


GAME CHANGERS: SC DECISION ON POE AND AMLC REPORT ON BINAY By Ellen Tordesillas March 18, 2016


By Ellen Tordesillas

NEXT week’s surveys should give us a clearer picture of the sentiments of the Filipino voters.

By then, we would know whose campaign is struggling and whose campaign is pulling away.

The latest surveys that we got this week (Pulse Asia for ABS-CBN) which put Grace Poe leading (28 percent) with just a few percentage points over Rodrigo Duterte (24 percent), who dislodged Jejomar Binay (21 percent) in second place and Mar Roxas closely following with 20 percent, was conducted a few days before the Supreme Court declared that Poe is qualified to run for the presidency of the Philippines. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, by the way, held on to her 3 percent.

The survey was conducted March 1 to 6 while the Supreme Court decision on Poe was released March 8.

The Magdalo survey conducted March 2-4 also had the same result: Poe, 31 percent; Duterte, 29.5; Binay, 21.5 ; Roxas, 14.3; and Santiago, 3.3.

Even before the High Court’s decision that removed a heavy cloud over Poe’s candidacy for president, she was already recovering from the dip that the Commission on Election decision to disqualify her had caused. It was a two percentage points increase from 26 percent that she registered in the Feb. 16 to 27 survey that Pulse Asia also conducted for ABS-CBN.

Also, even more than a week ago, Binay’s “recovery” seems to have stopped. From 24 per cent last February, he slid down to 21 percent first week of March, allowing Duterte who gained two percentage points to overtake him in second place.

No wonder, Duterte, who was noticeably soft on Binay before, has joined the call for the vice president to answer the report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council that he amassed “billions” from infrastructure projects and hid it through bank accounts of dummies.

The AMLC report, as reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, also revealed that Binay in October 2014, sent to an account in Hong Kong P100 million through Philrem Service Corp, a money remittance company, that is currently embroiled in the $81 million hacking of the Bangladesh Bank account with the US Federal Reserve and money laundering scandal involving a Philippine bank.

READ MORE...

The P100 million remittance was reportedly facilitated by the law firm where the Vice President’s daughter, Makati Rep. Abigail Binay, now running for Makati City mayor, is a partner.

Binay through his spokesman Joey Salgado has denied Inquirer’s story on the AMLC report. Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance slammed the report as “false” and “outdated”. UNA dubbed it as a politically motivated “well planned black propaganda.”

The Liberal party, as expected, is hammering hard on Binay. Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice challenged Binay to issue a waiver for Philrem to release records of his remittances abroad.

LP spokesman Rep. Barry Gutierrez said the public’s lack of trust on Binay is his own doing. “If (the report) is already dated, then why didn’t he answer it before? If it’s not true, why didn’t the VP himself face the Senate to prove that it’s false?” he said.

In our man-on-the street interviews, there were a number who said they will go for Binay despite the allegations of corruption against him. Some believe Binay’s line that the allegations are untrue while others said if he is corrupt, he has proven to be a competent leader.

Yet, in the Pulse Asia survey last January on the voters most important consideration in choosing a presidential candidate, number one is “Untarnished character/reputation, not corrupt”, 28 percent followed by a clear program of action, 14 percent and extensive experience in governance, 12 percent.

Let’s see next survey how these values manifest in the light of what are being exposed in media and how these will impact on the candidates’ campaign.


EDITORIAL: Rejecting ‘No Elections’ March 11, 2016


GMA NEWS NETWORK IMAGES

POLITICAL analysts and plain citizens have noted with differing emotions the resolutions on the two erstwhile pending cases in the Supreme Court that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) lost on the same day Wednesday.

First, the High Court overturned a Comelec ruling that Sen. Grace Poe cannot pursue her candidacy for president because of lack of residency in the country and questions on her being a natural-born Filipino citizen.

Second, the High Tribunal ordered the poll body to have its vote counting machines (VCM) issue a thermal-paper printout of votes counted in every ballot, some sort of a receipt for the voter to be reassured that his or her vote was counted.

Months of preparation for the national and local elections on May 9 may be put to naught if the Comelec cannot comply with the Supreme Court’s demand on the second case.

Days before the decision on the petition asking for vote receipts filed by senatorial candidate Richard Gordon, the Comelec had been adamant in its position not to issue the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). They said it would open up opportunities for vote selling and vote buying. Also, the issuance of receipts will lengthen the allotted time for voting.

Now, with the latest Supreme Court ruling, the Comelec is pressed for time in tweaking its poll preparations. But because the SC decision is final – and the High Tribunal is the final arbiter on the issue – it has no choice but to comply.

READ MORE...

Chairman Andres Bautista of the Comelec has floated the idea of postponing the elections, or having no elections at all, which would require legislation from Congress.

The justices, the candidates, observers and Filipinos who have big stakes in these elections never anticipated that the issue of VVPAT from the vote counting machines would lead to this. The printing of vote receipts is an inherent safeguard which is built in in the machine.

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, spokesman of Partido Galing at Puso led by Senator Grace Poe, is right in saying that Chairman Bautista should not mention “postpone” and “elections” in the same breath; it is unacceptable.

Said Gatchalian: “The Comelec should not even consider the possibility of holding the elections on a later date as this will damage our democracy, confuse the electorate, and tarnish the integrity of the elections.”


ALMENDRAS By Rey O. Arcilla March 15, 2016


By Rey O. Arcilla

SENIOR Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Supreme Court, one of the six justices who voted against allowing presidential candidate Grace Poe Llamanzares to run for president, said that only DNA evidence could prove that Llamanzares is indeed a natural-born Filipino.

Carpio also revealed that the question on whether Llamanzares is a natural-born citizen or not was not resolved by the majority.

The voting on the citizenship was 7-5-3. The majority should be 8.

“Any person who claims to be qualified to run for the position of President of the Philippines because he or she is, among others, a natural-born Filipino citizen, has the burden of proving he or she is a natural-born Filipino citizen. Any doubt whether or not he or she is natural-born Filipino citizen is resolved against him or her. The constitutional requirement of a natural-born citizen, being an express qualification for election as President, must be complied with strictly,” he said.

***

Two weeks ago, I suggested that a DNA test be done between Grace and her adoptive mother, Susan Roces who is the sister of Rosemarie Sonora, the rumored biological mother of Grace.

Two medical doctors told me that if the DNA of Grace and Susan match, it would confirm that Rosemarie is truly Grace’s biological mother, thus making her a natural-born Filipino. Who her biological father is would be immaterial.

But the question of her citizenship is (for now?) water under the bridge. Nine Supreme Court members (I hesitate to call them justices), led by wet behind the ears Ma. Lourdes Sereno compared to several of her more mature and wiser colleagues, have already “allowed” Llamanzares to run for the presidency.

“Allowed”?! As the final interpreter of the Constitution, shouldn’t they have said something like “under the relevant provisions of the Constitution, Llamanzares is ‘qualified’ to run for president”?

There goes the Constitution ratified by the Filipino people!!!

***

President-to-be Rodrigo Roa Duterte (unless he is cheated) said he respects but disagrees with the Supreme Court majority decision.

“I don’t agree with it kasi maski magtanong ka sa kahit sinong abugado, isang semestro ‘yan, political law, kabaligtaran sa lahat ng sinabi ng mga professor,” he said.

He also clarified he had nothing against Llamanzares personally,

“She’s very bright and courteous. It’s only her citizenship I question as a lawyer,” he said.

***

Duterte has now become the target of a demolition job by his detractors because of his seemingly inexorable rise in popularity among the voters.

There are news reports that charges may be filed against him in connection with alleged extrajudicial killings that have taken place in Davao in the past.

“Be my guest. Wala namang ebidensya. It is all politics,” he said.

Former DOJ secretary and chairman of the Commission on Human Rights and now senatorial aspirant Leila de Lima is allegedly behind the plan against Duterte.

Duterte’s running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, reacting to the report that a ranking police officer and an alleged self-confessed gunman have surfaced to testify against Duterte, said:

“Eight years mo inimbestigahan. Pasok ang CHR, ang DOJ. Lahat ng kanilang resources ginamit, wala silang nakita. Tapos kung kailan mag-e-election, tsaka magkakaroon ng witness. Ang tao matalino. Alam nila ‘yung timing.”

On the other hand, Duterte’s spokesman Peter Lavina said the possible filing of charges against the former will not affect the momentum generated by his candidate’s surge in popularity and voter preference.

“Duterte, running on a shoestring budget and with little support from big business interests and political parties, is attracting nationwide support from ordinary folks – workers, peasants, youth and students, women, Moro and indigenous peoples, middle class employees and businessmen, from south to north of the nation as the campaign period enters midway point,” he added.

***

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism came out with figures from Nielsen, an independent research firm, on the amounts spent by presidential candidates before the official campaign season began last month, to wit:

Binay, P1.05 billion; Llamanzares, P1.02 billion; Roxas, 969.2 million; and Duterte, P146.4 million.

I do not find the figures cited surprising, except the one for Llamanzares’ – P1.02 billion?!

She is supposedly an independent candidate and has no party to fund her campaign until she and her running mate Chiz Escudero were endorsed last week by the Nationalist People’s Coalition headed by Eduardo Cojuangco, crony of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

Shortly thereafter, Llamanzares said that Cojuangco is no longer to blame for the inability of farmers to access the coco levy funds.

Senatorial candidate Walden Bello reminded Llamanzares that Cojuangco had been accused of using the fund levied against small coconut farmers from 1973 to 1982 to buy a majority stake in San Miguel Corporation.

As Bello said, Llamanzares’ statement is a “misplaced act of political loyalty at the expense of small coconut farmers who continue to be denied justice… exemplifies the kind of patronage politics and historical revisionism that we must expunge from our national life”.

And she is not even president yet!

***

Incidentally, Llamanzares’ claim that she and her family lived in the US just like the average and hardworking American family appears to be mere hyperbole.

According to Open Source Investigations (http://www.opensourceinvestigations.com/), the Washington Post published on 31 August 2006 a list of the most expensive real estate sales recorded in that year supplied by the Real Estate Division of the Fairfax County Department of Tax Administration. It showed the Llamanzares family lived in one of the most luxurious houses in the entire Washington DC region.

The nearly $1 million house is located on 2809 Winter Oaks Way, in Herndon, a town in the Washington DC metropolitan area. It was sold in 2006 by “Teodoro V. and Mary Grace Llamanzares to Richard H. and Dorothy E. Ginnett, $947,000”.

The revelation appears to validate the conclusion of the Commission on Elections that Llamanzares misrepresented certain information in her Certificate of Candidacy that was invalidated by the poll body. She does seem capable of not telling the truth.

***

Also two weeks ago, I said it wouldn’t really matter who future ex-President Noynoy Aquino would appoint as foreign secretary.

With only three and a half months left in this administration, there really is no earthshaking initiative that acting secretary Rene Almendras can take – unless he declares war against China or, better still, gives notices of termination to the US of the abominable VFA and EDCA.

The rumor that Almendras was appointed to pursue the proposal he made when he was energy secretary some three years ago to allow China to conduct oil exploration in the disputed Spratlys is, I think, no longer feasible at this time, certainly not while his immediate predecessor is still shooting his mouth off about Chinese aggressive designs. China would rather wait for the next administration.

There is one thing though that Almendras can do – remove the juvenile, silly and outlandish giant smiley pasted by his predecessor at the main entrance of the DFA Building on Roxas Boulevard to restore the dignified and sober image of the Foreign Office.

But after praising his predecessor to the high heavens, will he do it?

To paraphrase Noynoy’s favorite Frank Sinatra song, let’s watch what happens.

***

The Reminders (for Noynoy) portion of this column will be published next week.

***

Today is the 305th day of the ninth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

I dread to think of how many more years it will take before Jonas’ disappearance is finally resolved. It is beginning to look more and more like the next administration will have to be reminded of it too. In the meantime, it would be interesting to know what our Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Justice are doing about it.

***

From an internet friend:

More Inconvenient Truths:

Man outside phone booth: “Excuse me you have been holding the phone for 29 minutes and you haven’t spoken a word.” Man inside: “I am talking to my Wife.”

A very intelligent girl was asked the meaning of marriage. She said: “Sacrificing the admiration of a hundred guys, to face the criticism of one idiot.”

Position of a Husband is just like a Split Aircon. No matter how loud he is outdoors, He is designed to remain silent indoors!

Listening to your Wife is like reading terms and conditions of a website. You understand nothing but still click on “I Agree”.

The sweetest message: Husband to Wife: “You should learn to embrace your mistakes.”….. She hugged him tightly.


DEEPENING POVERTY By BENJAMIN E. DIOKNO March 21, 2016


By Benjamin Diokno

The first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is to halve poverty incidence by 2015. For the Philippines this means reducing poverty incidence from 34.4 percent in 1991 to 17.2 percent in 2015.

Now, it can be told: the Philippines will miss this MDG goal, despite the above normal economic growth during the last four years. By contrast, the same goal has been reached globally in 2000, five years ahead of schedule.

Closer to home, our Asean-6 neighbors – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- have met this lofty goal many years ago.

***

During the last 10 years, nothing much has changed: more than one in four Filipinos is poor. In 2006, the proportion of poor people was 26.6 percent; it barely improved to 26.3 percent in 2009.

Assuming steady improvement in the war against poverty, poverty incidence should shrink by 0.72 percent annually. Using the 26.3 percent in 2009 as a starting point for the Aquino III administration, the proportion of poor people should be 24.1 percent in 2012 and 22 percent in 2015.

Yet, official Family Income and Expenditures Survey results show that poverty incidence was much higher than target: it was 25.2 percent in 2012 and 26.3 percent in 2015. But given that population continues to grow rapidly, with the proportion of poor people basically unchanged, more Filipinos are poorer now than before!

It is tempting to blame the Asian financial crisis and the recent Global Recession for missing the target. But our Asean-6 neighbors went through the same crises, some even worse than what the Philippines had experienced, yet they managed to half poverty incidence many years ahead of schedule.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the Philippines’neighboring countries must be doing something right while we continue to muddle through.

And here’s another twist: when the Philippines committed to halving poverty by 2015, the massive spending for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program was not even in the realm of policy options.

But from 2011 to 2015, the Aquino government has flooded the urban and rural communities with some P229 billion worth of cash transfers.

READ MORE...

So, naturally, more is expected from it. Hence, it is a major disappointment that despite the massive infusion of cash into the pockets of the poor, poverty has remained stubbornly unchanged.

How did the country’s Asean-6 neighbors manage to cut poverty by half without resorting to the foreign debt-financed CCT program?

Lesson: while strong, sustained growth is a necessary condition for poverty reduction, it is not a sufficient one. It matters where growth is coming from and if it is inclusive.

FIVE YEARS OF UNDERSPENDING: WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

A related issue to the persistent poverty is the matter of underspending. One would think that this slow, indecisive and inept administration would be responsive to the constant criticism that it has failed to disburse the limited budgets approved by Congress.

Yet, instead of improving, the gravity of underspending has worsened. In 2011, the level of underspending of the Aquino administration was P76 billion net of savings from interest payments, but in 2015, it reached P276 billion. From 2011 to 2015, the total underspending net of interest payments was a whopping P705 billion.

Given the enormity of the expenditure needs owing to the Global Recession, the past neglect of public infrastructures and the swelling population, the Aquino III administration should have disbursed fully what Congress has authorized it to spend. There is no reason why the President cannot spend the budget fully and promptly because it originated from him and Congress has, by and large, approved it with little alterations.

But sadly, he failed to spend some P705 billion of public funds, net of interest payments, which could have made a difference in making economic growth faster sustained and more inclusive.

***

Based on sketchy information from the Bureau of Treasury, the Aquino III administration missed the opportunity to disburse some P276 billion, net of interest payments, in 2015, including some vital public infrastructure projects, making the underspending the worst in five years. This is the opposite of learning-by-doing.

The economic costs of underspending and indecisiveness are enormous. There are the missed opportunities in terms of benefits that should have been derived from completed programs and projects of the government (classrooms for public school students, farm-to-market roads and irrigation facilities for farmers and so on). And there is the loss in potential strong and sustainable future growth owing to the lack of necessary public infrastructure.

***

Benjamin Diokno is a former Secretary of Budget and Management. Category: Opinion Of The Day


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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