Press Release
November 29, 2017

*Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros' explanation of vote on the proposed 2018 National Government Budget

From the beginning of these budget deliberations, my bottomlines were clear: firstly, that taxpayers' money should be used to promote human development, with a bias for the poor, vulnerable and the marginalized; secondly, that the budgeting process is transparent and participatory, adhering to democratic principles rather than being used as a tool for the political survival of the administration; and thirdly, that it is imbued with human rights values and is built on the rule of law and the Constitution.

I thank the Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance for committing to look into restoring allocations for cancer medicine, which were in the 2017 budget but initially missing from the proposed 2018 budget. This includes the return of more than 90 million pesos in breast cancer medication - of critical concern, considering that our country ranks the highest in a list of 197 countries with the most number of cases of breast cancer. In the same spirit, I thank this body for adopting my provision to earmark 5% of retained hospital income for preventive and promotive health services, including reproductive health services. Our recent victory in the FDA where 51 contraceptives were declared to be non-abortifacient should be matched with budgetary support. And I laud the Committee chair for recognizing this.

Secondly, on my call for a transparent and democratic budget, I wholeheartedly thank this body for retaining the general provision on debt audit, which ensures that debts entered into by our government will be subjected to sufficient checks, and we avoid the mistakes of history. It is my hope that the principles that underlie the debt audit provisions of the budget guide government as it contracts loans from China for its various big-ticket infrastructure projects under the so-called Dutertenomics strategy.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I thank this body for ensuring that the budget does not support the bloodthirsty impulses of the strategists of the War on Drugs. I am heartened that my call during the budget hearing of the DILG to remove the "Tokhang" barangay drop boxes was heard. Beyond this, I am grateful that this body heeded my motion and the motion of some of my colleagues to realign the budget allocations for Oplan Double Barrel and Masa Masid. This sends a clear signal to the Executive that human rights violations and constitutionally-infirm state policies will not be financed.

This monster will not be fed. This will, thankfully, be a Tokhang-Free Budget.

And yet, as I vote yes to the budget, I vote with measured hope and cautious optimism. The Philippine Development Plan 2017 to 2022 states that "overall poverty rate will decline from 21.6% to 14% in 2022, lifting 6m Filipinos out of poverty." Unfortunately, we have yet to hear a convincing discussion on how the Dutertenomics strategy, supported by the 2018 budget, will contribute to achieving development that will clearly lift our poor from poverty. Large budget cuts in food security programs and agriculture, low increments in various social programs and large budget cuts in housing for the poor are contradictions to the above mentioned goal. It is unfortunate that in these terms, the 2018 budget has still fallen short.

News Latest News Feed