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DSWD got too much budget

It gets worse. Now I am sure our officials just fund projects that look good on a press release without thinking how they will be implemented, or if the projects can be implemented at all. And I have the Senate budget hearing led by Sen Loren Legarda to thank for shedding light on this anomaly.

Over the last two columns, we have learned that DOTr and DepEd were unable to obligate, much less spend, a good portion of their budgets. That simply means the good intentions of delivering much needed services to us, the citizens of this county, didn’t happen.

 Many reasons or excuses were advanced to explain the bureaucratic failure to absorb the money set aside to get some urgent things done. One excuse blamed the previous administration for creating a “spending backlog.” The usual excuse is that the Procurement Law and other spending rules make it difficult to get anything done in government.

Now we are being told that DSWD was unable to obligate some P7 billion in its 2017 budget for the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP). I am not sure if this is good news or bad because SLP sounds like a pork barrel fund source.

The SLP is supposed to be a community-based, capacity building program that seeks to improve the socio-economic status of the program’s participants through skills training, seed capital fund, pre-employment assistance, and cash for building livelihood assets. It offers two tracks—microenterprise development and employment facilitation.

In other words, SLP is another of those feel-good programs that NGOs like that of Napoles exploit. We should feel happy that DSWD was unable to waste more of our money on such ill-conceived excuses to enrich everyone, except help those the projects should help.

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Arguing against the projects is almost like arguing against motherhood. The projects are justified as “must do” things to promote social equity. But I am not sure our bureaucracy or senior policy makers, for that matter, really know if the things work as intended or if they even know how to implement to produce desired outcomes. It smells like pork.

Maybe, thanks to an honest administrator like Judy Taguiwalo, she chose to keep the money rather than waste funds since they don’t have the means to properly implement. I disagree with Sen Legarda’s instruction to DSWD to spread out the unobligated funds to other agencies to beat the Dec. 31 deadline.

 I can understand Sen Legarda’s thinking. Needs were unserved by the failure to obligate and spend. But I am worried that in the rush to obligate funds, the funds will end up in the hands of the usual scammers who profit from bleeding heart projects like those in the SLP.

But at the urging of Sen Legarda, DSWD will obligate the fund to other agencies like the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), National Housing Authority (NHA), Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, and even local government units (LGUs).

Other agencies likely to get their hands of the funds include: DAR on the provision of livelihood activities to Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs), with the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission and the Manila Bay Coordinating Office to provide support for families living around the river and the bay, and with LGUs that are recipients of the DILG’s seal of good housekeeping.

The thing is… if DSWD, the original agency entrusted with the SLP, can’t manage to spend the funds as intended, what makes Sen. Legarda think the other agencies will be able to do that? They will likely look at the funds as manna from heaven they can use to please congressmen. They surely will not have the mechanism to implement the projects and end up just wasting these funds.

 A worse outcome for this problem is having all those funds spent and dissipated, and nothing much to show in the end. We should hold the budget department and the two houses of Congress responsible for providing funds for projects that only look good on paper, but are really pork allotments.

All we are asking is for our officials to have some respect for the money we pay in taxes. We worked hard for that money and those entrusted to spend our money wisely have the moral obligation to do so.

Maybe we don’t need new taxes. We need tighter budgeting.

Frats

The death of yet another promising young man in the hands of people he wanted to call his brothers isn’t surprising. A law that is supposed to address hazing had not deterred students from reputable schools from hazing and killing neophytes.

As a parent, my heart bleeds for the parents of the young Atio Castillo. I don’t even want to imagine the pain the parents are feeling now. They raised a good son and pinned a lot of hopes and dreams on him. They entrusted his education to a venerable university, only to lose him to the savages who tortured him to death.

The University of Santo Tomas and the Faculty of Civil Law, in particular, have a lot to answer in the death of Atio. The fact that the dean of the law school is also a member of that fraternity makes the moral responsibility even heavier. It served as an unspoken endorsement of the fraternity to the freshman Atio.

The dean can claim to high heavens that he is no longer active in the fraternity, but the public knows enough about the mindsets of fraternity brothers to remain skeptical. It is reasonable to fear he will be unable to deliver the justice sought by Atio’s parents.

 We have to start being serious in dealing with fraternity deaths. The law seems ineffective largely because the crime is treated like any crime in this country which takes years to litigate. What every affected university must do, or be allowed to do is to expel right away, not just suspend, all officers of the offending fraternity and members that participated in the killing of the neophyte.

I remember that at UP, the late journalist Louie Beltran, in his capacity as dean of student affairs during the martial law years, adopted a policy of outright expulsion for fraternity officers. The former dean of the UP College of Law, Justice Irene Cortes also decreed that any frat member caught within a kilometer of a rumble will also be expelled.

Many frat men ended up unable to graduate, unable to take the bar examinations or unable to take their oath as lawyers because of their expulsion. Drastic measures are the only way to deal with rascals. Destroying their future doesn’t even pay for the life of their victims which they abruptly and cruelly ended.

 Savages like fraternity hooligans do not deserve to get an education in any university or college in this country. Neither should they be allowed to become lawyers while the case goes through ever so slowly within the system. Expel first and the criminal aspects of the case can be litigated after.

I thank God my son never found the need to join a fraternity. I never did myself in my college years at UP. My dad founded one of the fraternities at the UP College of Medicine, but he thought it was a bad idea to join one. Luckily, I never felt so inadequate to need the psychological support of so called brothers.

With so many fraternity members in high positions in the judicial system and the Department of Justice, I am almost sure Atio will not get the justice he deserves. I hope I am wrong, but I haven’t heard of any hazing victim who ever got justice under our system, ever!

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.

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