Senate drops safeguard provision on CCT savings

Published by rudy Date posted on December 16, 2010

The House minority bared yesterday the removal of a provision in next year’s budget that would prevent the unused portion of the massive P21 billion budget for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) from turning into savings the use of which would be under the discretion of the Office of the President the following year.

Without the provision, savings from the CCT could easily become part of the President’s own “pork barrel,” Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay told reporters.

During a House interpellation before the ratification of the budget, Cavite Rep. Joseph Abaya, House appropriations committee chairman, indicated that Sen.Franklin Drilon, a staunch ally of President Aquino, insisted on removing the provision, saying it is unconstitutional.

Drilon, who is Senate finance committee chairman, supposedly said removing the provision would “limit the constitutional power of the President to declare savings and likewise realign them.”

Magsaysay said she protested the removal of the

provision as it was unanimously passed in the House on third reading. “Why did we surrender to the upper chamber,” Magsaysay asked Abaya.

Suarez estimates only about 500,000 families of the targeted 1.3 million families could be serviced by the DSWD under the program next year which means excess funds by the end of the year.

The program targets to provide P1,400 per month in state subsidies to the country’s poorest 1.3 million families. The scheme will run for 10 months next year.

The House of version of the bill inserted a provision stating that excess funds from the program should be used only for education and health. It was included in the budget since House members were doubtful about the capability of the DSWD to see through the program fully.

Aquino, meanwhile, thanked House leaders for passing the 2011 national budget before Congress goes on a Christmas break.

Aquino, who attended the Christmas party of House reporters last Tuesday night, said that this is the first time in eleven years that the General Appropriations Bill will be signed into law on time.

“This is a good way to start an administration,” Aquino told reporters in a short Christmas message at the House media center.

“I have a lot to thank for to Speaker (Feliciano) Belmonte, kay (House Majority Leader Neptali) Boyet Gonzales and (House accounts chairman) An Waray partylist Rep. Florencio ) Bem Noel,” Aquino said. Noel, Gonzales and Belmonte were also at the media center.

Aquino also told members of the media, many of whom are his friends since he was a representative of Tarlac, that he is bent on fulfilling his campaign promises – economic reforms and to rid the government of graft and corruption.

He said that there are setbacks but that his government if fast learning to overcome the setbacks.

“There are times we trip over but were learning fast,” Aquino said.

“We will make the most out of it to really advance the changes,” Aquino added.

President Aquino arrived shortly after former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo left the media center. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a former congressman of the of the lone district of Taguig-Pateros also attended the Christmas party.

Aquino said that while legislators are going on a Christmas break, he is going to work during the holidays.

“We will sign the budget,” said Aquino, adding that he has lot of things to do as part of his job and responsibilities as President. He invited the reporters to come visit him in Malacanang for a cup of coffee and some pandesal.

Aquino was Tarlac’s representative for nine years before becoming a senator has developed some deeper friendships with some House reporters. Others became his billiard buddies. –Gerry Baldo, Daily Tribune

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