The House Minority seeks a revamp in the President’s official family, more than a year into the Duterte presidency.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said, “The Cabinet revamp is appropriate. Members of the President’s Executive family must be beyond reproach, are competent to discharge their sworn duties and finally, are equal to the tasks of this administration. Let’s face it. We have a very popular President and some of his appointees are just merely riding his fame and are actually not effective. Experience has taught us that in the long run, the popularity of a President declines. If he keeps incompetent members, his legacy as a President will be affected. “
For Suarez, these are some Cabinet appointments that the President might want to review. Suarez notes Waiting for confirmation by the CA are Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Paulyn Ubial and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano. Secretary Ubial is being criticized for her inconsistent positions on major health issues. Secretary Mariano faces graft and administrative charges for allowing farmers to occupy the property of Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) in Tagum, Davao del Norte. Latest news reported that the President will soon fire two more Cabinet members due to conflict of interest. Currently facing public criticism is Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Martin Delgra III for allegedly favoring taxis over Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS) companies, Uber and Grab. A few months ago, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Teo scrapped a Php 650-million international ad campaign due to its glaring similarities with another ad. Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa is being questioned for the numerous killings committed by the police during anti-drug operations.
Suarez noted that Early this year, the President relieved Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael Sueño and National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Chief Peter Laviña due to corruption allegations. Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon resigned after the Php 6.4-billion “shabu” shipment controversy.
Suarez notes the president appears to have chosen his cabinet on the basis of those who supported him during the campaign. “dito nagbigay siya ng priority doon sa mga tumulong sa campaign. mga recommendation ng mga clsoe sa kaniya mga taga davao mga dating kasamahan yung mga nirekomenda ng PDP laban we have to somehow acknowledge the fact na lahat yun di niya binigyan ng value when there was glaring allegation of corruption”
Suarez says the president wil continue his drive fighting terrorism drugs and corruption. Kabayan Party List rep. Harry Roque said, “sinusugan po natin yung sinabi ni minority floor leader di ko na po uulitin sino tingin ko pinakaincomptente sa gabinete alam niyo naman sino yun. nakita niyo naman kung bakit kinakailangan ng comptenetng secretarya na who will go beyond eating fried chiecken in public..”
Roque says the minority already seeks to hold the executive accountable during the upcoming plenary deliberations on the 2018 budget. “ang minorya po di namin igigive up ang power of the purse nakita namin halos lahat ng dept di nagagatso ng tama yung pondo para sa 2017..nakapagtataka..sabi ni secretary diokno on target ang national government eh nakita niyo na sa DPWH 20% ang di nila nagagasta. 20% ng 197B ay napakalaki …nasita na rin yung DICT yung DOTR DEPED hanggang ngayon ni isang school building walang naitayo for 2017 samantalang napalaki tinaas pa ang budget by 40% para sa K-12 program. yung di ginagasta ng gubyerno sapat sapat na yan.”
Roque added, “desidido ang minorya na gamitin itong budget process as an instrument for accountability. hindi lang sa SC ako babantayan DILG at PNP…yung kaso ni Kian nangyari after yung initial budget hearing dIlg di natin nailabas pero ilalabas natin yan kung ano na yung internal investigation ng PNP.”
Suarez cited his own personal experience in the response of the government to disasters. “ just to show you napakahina ng deployment ng govt respons tinamaan kami ng bagyo…we have a lot of school buildings na walang bubong hanggang ngayon wala pa ring bubong. tamang tama itong budget hearing na ito.”
Roque on Wednesday urged that the budget from agencies with low absorptive capacity be used to fund for Republic Act 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, and the proposed Universal Health Coverage Act.
“A look at the national budget in the previous years would reveal that a significant portion of government appropriations remain unused every year. This unused portion shows that the absorption capacity of some government agencies is low,” Roque said.
“This unused budget can and should be realigned to be used to fund the free college tuition law and the Universal Health Coverage Act, which is scheduled to be approved on third reading this week,” he added.
Along with the Representative Helen Tan who chairs the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Roque is one of the leading proponents of the Universal Health Coverage Act. He defended the bill during its second reading recently.
The lawmaker stressed that using the unused portions of the national budget instead of allocating additional funds would mean new taxes would be unnecessary.
“We do not need to increase the national budget if we just utilize the unused budget of these agencies with a consistent record of low absorptive capacity,” he said.
The initial allocation of the Universal Health Coverage Act is pegged at at least half a billion pesos.
Absorptive capacity refers to the percentage of unused appropriations of the annual national budget divided by the total amount of appropriations available for any given year.
Roque has previously filed a bill that seeks to prohibit the imposition of additional taxes unless a set threshold absorptive capacity benchmark and tax collection target are met by the concerned government agencies.
House Bill 4755, or the Ultimate Tax Reform Act, requires the Department of Finance (DOF), in cooperation with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to set a threshold absorptive capacity benchmark.
“The purpose of this bill is to set a threshold absorptive capacity and tax collection ratio, while limiting the imposition of additional tax measures to be consistent with government need,” Roque said.
He added that while the intentions of lawmakers seeking to impose additional taxes may be good, “it is unclear whether the aim of these policies is necessary and reasonable, in light of the realities of government spending.”
He said that as long as the government can afford to spend on basic services and infrastructure, any additional tax imposed on the Filipino people is oppressive and unjustifiable.
Suarez meantime revealed that the House thumbed down the creation of new agencies being proposed by the executive. “medyo nagkaroon kami ang house at exectuive dept nagkaroon ng kotning sagutan dahil sa inisist ng speaker dito sa budget na siansabi nila gusto nila magcreate na naman ng bagong department sabi namin kapapasa lang namin ng downsizing bakit magcreate kayo ng bagong dept 3 prinopose nila dept of culture space agency at saka house. sabi namin yung can come up with dept of housing pero spinoff natin yung HUDCC.”
Buhay party List rep lito atienza said, “dept of culture di rin kailangan yun ibalik lang natin ang culture as a function ng department of education”
Suarez said the proposals are now at a standstill. “nagpresent sila consumed about 35 minutes. you can call it there was a standstill because were going to push through on our position. nagpresent sa amin HUDCC gusto niya magakaroon ng spinoff Dept of Housing sabi ko change the title. not to create anotehr department of housing. doon nga nakita namin may isang ahensiya ng gobyerno 11 board member 3 empleyado.”
Suarez added that they will also seek the realignment of the budget of agencies. “ilalabas namin ito sa plenary. we are going to cut some budget. we are going to cut some dept we are going to ask them to realign some of their money. for instance…nagtataka kami yung fisheries section napakaliit ng budget eh food security ito.”