Press Release
February 9, 2011

Speech Voting for the Confirmation of Secretary Butch Abad
by Sen. Ralph Recto

As a congressman, Butch Abad was envied for having a postage-stamp size district whose residents can all be loaded up in one MRT train.

But when he defected to the Executive branch, all that envy turned into sympathy, for what he took on was either the biggest in size (DepEd), or the most revolutionary in mandate (DAR), or the richest in coffers (DBM).

Just one of these can already be considered a crowning glory of one's career, not to mention the fact that having just one is enough to lose one's crowning glory, as in his case.

His latest reincarnation as a Cabinet member is the toughest.

For it involves, as one of his predecessors had said, the task of performing the budgetary equivalent of the miracle of multiplying bread out of a single loaf, and wine out of a single jug.

The task of handling the Conditional Cash Transfer to lawmakers - otherwise known as PDAF - for example, can already be tiring, given the tendency among many in our branch to try to pound plowshares into pork barrels.

And I am talking of 300 individuals only and he has to attend to the needs of millions all crying for a bigger slice from a spending cake that is actually shrinking in real terms.

But the fact is the budgetary secretary in this part of the world is either seen as a brown Santa Claus, or a person who prints money.

But the reality is, he is straitjacketed by two limitations : the availability of revenues because the budget is dependent on it, and the budget law for it guides him how to spend revenues appropriated by Congress.

These nuances, however, are lost on the public so the result is we have a budget secretary who is under perpetual siege from those asking for funds from Aparri to Jolo. I would have said Batanes, but I do not have the way of confirming if they still have to ask funds from their favorite son.

No wonder that under this environment, we shouldn't blame him if he had his more than his usual share of bad hair days.

And if he wants to shake off the stress by driving around town - in a borrowed Porsche maybe - for some hair-raising diversion to clear his mind, and relieve the tension, then we should all let him be.

But I doubt if he would do that because coming from a family of 14 siblings - that's one baseball team plus one basketball team thrown in - he grew up in an environment of Puritan work ethic where resources are rationed and only actual needs are funded.

This is a guy whose idea of saving money in his younger days was to take haircut once a year and whose concept of relaxation to date is to do carpentry work.

So if you were wondering then where he learned the art of budgeting, now you know that he learned it in the polling precinct also known as the Abad household.

Some say that it is easy to pull a molar out of Butch than to ask him for a SARO. Perhaps that is what is required of the times.

But I caution him that no country has ever saved its way to prosperity. All spent their way. You can never scrimp your way out of an economic downturn. Spending is the only way.

I would like to remind my friend that the end in budgeting is not to turn in good fiscal numbers, but allowing the country to turn the corner to good times. Budget deficits are in fact needed if they will yield a surplus of the common good.

Personally, Butch has impeccable academic degrees, Law in Ateneo, which for a La Sallista like me is hard to concede but I must, and to Harvard and other Ivy League schools for some post-grads.

His work experience is textured as well, NGO work among farmers, pro bono legal work among the poor as well. As to political work, he's been to the trenches, during a point in our history when it mattered most.

And, of course, most of you know that he's been a ranking member of the Bigger House and that other powerful house called Balay.

For all these qualifications, he can never be A-bad secretary, only a good one. I vote for his confirmation.

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