Press Release
November 29, 2012


"Kung ano ang ating itanim, iyon din ang ating aanihin."

This is a biblical principle that is truly applicable in the discussion of the national budget. Surely whatever we allocate for services and activities, that is what we will reap.

Mr. President, as the Senate Minority Leader, I stand before this august chamber to deliver what is my duty to do - an assessment of the 2013 budget. It's also my duty as a member of the minority to be honest and to point out the good parts of the budget as well as the parts we feel can stand some scrutiny or can be improved.

First of all, I'd like to congratulate the Committee on Finance led by Sen. Franklin Drilon and the vice chairpersons Sen. Edgardo Angara and Sen. Ralph Recto on the immediate and speedy passage of this budget and for the many hours spent on the committee level as well as here in the session hall.

I would also like to congratulate this administration for increasing the country's standing on different but equally important areas. In the first quarter of 2012, the Philippine economy grew by 6.4 percent, and we registered the highest growth among ASEAN and neighboring countries (with the exception of China. Rightly so, this growth was recognized by three major credit rating agencies - Standard and Poor's, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings.

We have much to be proud of in the area of efficient spending with the goal of achieving growth. But I think we can all agree that we need to do more. And the effective construction of the 2013 budget is one way of ensuring that we can indeed do more to push the country forward.

Ibig sabihin Mr. Chairman, bagamat kami ay nasa minority, obligasyon din namin na magsabi ng totoo na namumunga ang sinasabi ng administrasyong ito na "Good governance is good economics".

But that doesn't mean that the budget is perfect. Lately, I have been favoring the term used by former NEDA director-general Cielito Habito: PiTiK - Presyo, Trabaho, Kita. Because in a very simple concept, he was able to translate the needs or the central economic issues of our countrymen.

Let me just point out some areas of concern in the budget.

First of all, education. Wala pong kwestiyon na ang pangulo natin at si Secretary Luistro ay talagang napakalaki na ang nagawa para sa edukasyon kumpara sa ibang administrasyon. In fact , this year 's 20% increase in the Department of Education budget is unprecedented.

But with the plan of the DepEd to add two years of senior high school, this ambitious plan may actually negatively affect the quality of education and lead to more dropouts.

Very glaring is the finding of the World Bank and other institutions that the single most influential factor in the classroom is the teacher. Despite the plan to spend P60 billion more next year for education, there is no mention of additional pay and employment for teachers.

We have more or less 500,000 teachers in the public school system. A P1,000 increase a month will give you P500 million, if with 13th month pay P6.5 billion. This is something like 10% of the whole increase in the budget. Surely it could have been a worthwhile expenditure on the most important factor in education - the teacher.

Even if we're not willing or able to give that much, let's take a look at the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers or RA 4670. It says clearly in Section 22: Medical Examination and Treatment that "Compulsory medical examination shall be given free of charge for all teachers before they take up teaching and shall be repeated not less than once a year during the teacher's professional life. When medical examinations show that treatment or hospitalization is necessary then the same shall be provided free by the government entity paying for the salary of teachers."

What does the budget show us? The budget merely states "field operation of medical, dental and optical health and nursing services including subsidy to teachers for field services, chest xray, mammography and treatment of teaching non-teaching DepEd employees afflicted with tuberculosis."

How much is the budget, Mr. President? P41.935 million with only a per capita spending per teacher of P71. Less than P100 per teacher when we're planning to spend or give DepEd another P50 or 60 billion.

Of course, Mr. President, I can go on and on. And as I said, it is not a perfect document. Yet there is a process of amendment. There's a bicameral conference committee. I'm hoping that some of the comments of the minority and some of these small but meaningful items that will motivate our teachers and other civil servants to work harder may be considered or included in the amendments.

Mr. President, in education as I've mentioned in the KontraSONA, other countries are talking about computer labs, computer assisted learning. They're already talking about tablets. And I have fondlyjoked about, "Ang alam lang na tablet ng Pilipinong estudyante ay paracetamol."

Some teachers or principals have iPads and tablets. But many schools have no internet access and even no electricity. Two-thirds to three-fourths of our kindergarten teachers are receiving only P3,000 monthly pay.

So, Mr. President, I'd just like to see the connection between telling people that you have a P60 billion increase in budget and telling teachers that we will not follow the Magna Carta and we'll only pay you P3,000.

In fact, yesterday when I was in Pangasinan speaking to public school principals, the media came up to me and ask what I can say about the issue that in Pangasinan that it has already been 5-6 months since the teachers have received their pay.

These are real problems that I hope will be addressed in the budget or its application. Not only the increase of their benefits and salaries but also the issue itself actually addressed.

66 percent actually graduate from elementary. That means that 34% do not. Only 50% graduate from high school. Ibig sabihin ba na 50% ng halos 20 million na pumamasok ng Grade 1 o Kindergarten ay di makakatapos. May 36% ng 20 million o 8 million ay di nakakapasok sa high school.

Despite these glaring statistics, we now plan to add two more years through the K12 program. While, I am not totally against the measure per se, I am against its immediate institutionalization and implementation given the financial burden it will add on the current system and on parents. With this, I find the budget on education off-track as it does not seem to address the problems in education, but rather pushes for a program that would burden the sector even further.

Mr. President, it is not my duty in this point in time to discuss each and every problem in each and every department. But allow me to talk about two more items. One is about health issues.

While our budget on health increased dramatically, from P44 Billion in 2012 to P54 Billion this year, or around 24% higher than last year, it is still below the 5% WHO recommended health spending among developing countries and below our Asean counterparts.

The ideal spending on health is 5% of the GDP. We only spend 3.6%. In comparison, Vietnam spends almost double than what we do- 6.8%.

In this light, I urge the government to start tackling the increasing incidence of child malnutrition by formulating and implementing a food policy specifically for the country's malnourished children.

I am alarmed over the United Nations estimate of the existence of 6 million malnourished Filipino children of which 60,000 are identified to be vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Acute malnutrition affects at least 3.5 million children 5 years old and below.

Let me correlate this to the education budget and the plan to go into the K12 program. The DepEd itself said that the most important years of learning is the 0-6 years old age bracket. So we now have a mandatory kindergarten but of the P26 billion we're just going to spend P5-9 billion. Yet we say that we can afford to have senior high school.

The UN and other institutions have already said that when children are malnourished it affects their ability to learn. No amount of education cycle and bettering the facilities can help a child whose mental faculties are affected by malnutrition.

Mr. President, let me just connect our health issues with our education issues. With programs like the CCT, how come with all of these programs the number of malnourished children still increased? How do we deal with the 3.5 million with acute malnutrition?

The latest survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) states "These children, or two in every 10 Filipino aged 5 and below, are underweight while seven million children up to 10 years old, or one in every three, are stunted or short in height for their age.

While it is commendable that child mortality rates have dropped by half according to UNICEF, there is still a need for government to push further programs that address the prevalence of malnourished children in the country. If we are to meet our healthcare target in compliance with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) then we must start acting now and start saving our children - the country's future.

This budget should reflect the programs and projects and the allotment that will address these problems.

Moreover, the number of unemployed and under employed nurses as of July 2011 is pegged at 300,000. This does not include nursing students who graduate yearly and those who passed the board exams yearly which is about 30,000 in every board exam. Therefore the plan to implement the RN Heals Program this year that aims to hire 22,500 nurses for 2013 is a good start in addressing the problem of unemployment plaguing our nurses.

However, 22,500 is less than 10% of the 300,000 unemployed nurses throughout the country according to the Phil. Nurses Association. There are more than 50,000 who passed the Nursing Board Exam last year. Currently, the nurse-patient ratio in government hospitals is about 1:30 while the ideal ratio is 1:12.

Schools are also required to have nurses. So do health centers. But many of our schools and health centers have no nurses. While the government tries to hire more nurses thru its RN Heals Program, a lot of critics have posed concerns on the 'salary' being given to 'trainee' nurses, which is a meager P 8,000-10,000 per month. Similar to the criticism of paying kindergarten teachers just P3,000.

So why don't we do something about this? The way I see it, if we hire more nurses, it's a win-win situation for our country. We get more nurses to care for our sick and the nurses in turn get jobs to be able to support their families without going overseas.

However, we have to make sure we pay them the amount they deserve. The sacrifices they make are not small ones. We owe it to them to recognize this by giving them adequate pay.

As a last example of a sector or of an issue that needs to be dealt with decisively, I will discuss the peace and order sector. Without pointing fingers, Mr. President, the peace and order situation is not that great. In fact, it is bad in a lot of areas in our country.

Kapag bumisita po tayo sa mga baranggay, mula sa mga kasong drug-related hanggang sa kung anu-anong insidente ng hold-up ni hindi na sinasabi sa pulis o sa baranggay officials dahil ito ay tanggap na. Hindi ba pwedeng ambisyunin ng Pilipino na makapunta kung saan man at makauwi na ligtas sila?

Again, it will take a lot of funds, a lot of money, a lot of programs, a lot of training to address these issues. There are much cheaper and effective ways to achieve our goal. Even without increasing the number of policemen but by addressing the concerns of the present crop of policemen and law enforces by increasing their benefits and pay. By doing this, we can actually address the peace and order situation and save money at the same time.

We can also address our problems by turning to technology. CCTVs are now devices that are getting us the results we want. Halos araw araw po sa news ay may mga nahuhuli dahil sa CCTV. Kung ano mang crime ay nahuhuli sa CCTV at nahahabol ang may sala at mas madaling malutas ang kaso.

In fact merely having a CCTV deters crime. Just lights and CCTVs address the issue of crime. But now, it's left to the LGUs and the private sector to put up their own CCTVs. Why doesn't the national government support the PNP instead and fund programs for them? The same thing can be said about big crimes. Our crime labs have little to no equipment. We're sending policemen abroad to study yet we're not giving them the proper equipment.

Parating pinaguusapan kung dapat magkaroon ng death penalty pero marami pong walang takot dahil tingin nila di sila mahuhuli.

Mr. President, these are only three sectors that not only depend on the budget but also on the creativity, on listening to the sector, on giving these agencies the flexibility to enact projects and programs that they know will be the best for them.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, I'd just like to put on the record that I continue to wonder why in my 15 years in Congress, are departments afraid or do not consider the idea of pilot testing?

Bakit po ang hilig ng Pilipino na one size fits all? Kung may isang programa tulad ng K12, bakit hindi subukan muna sa isang region o sa isang probinsya sa bawat region? Bakit pag may naisip na magandang programa sa buong Pilipinas agad gawin? Tapos kapag palpak sayang ang pera. Kapag gumana, wala namang sapat na pondo para gawin ito ng maayos sa buong bansa.

You'll see Mr. President that all the projects that have been successful are actually experiments of the LGUs being picked up by the national government. This is because the LGUs can do it on their own without having to insist that all the other LGUs in their region do it.

Mr. President, again, while we are supportive of the general objective of the 2013 budget, while we recognize that there are so many improvements and that we have more funds now to spend, we continue to ask about and scrutinize this budget, inject creativity and not be afraid to have pilot testing or to experiment by using the money wisely and making sure that the projects really work.

Mr. President, having said that, may I congratulate the leadership of this chamber and the leadership of the committee in passing this budget. Thank you and God bless you.

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