EDITORIAL - Slow on Yolanda, quick on itself

The Freeman

One of the greatest ironies in public governance is happening right now under the Aquino administration, and nobody seems to recognize it for what it is. The irony is this -- while the Aquino administration has been pilloried left and right for being so slow in spending for the rehabilitation and recovery of Yolanda-hit areas, it appears to be so quick in declaring unspent amounts in the budget as savings and therefore ready to be spent at will by Aquino and his cohorts.

No less than Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has lambasted the Aquino administration for its ill-disguised attempts to siphon off money intended in the budget for specific purposes into expenditures for God knows what in the guise of their being savings. There is, of course, no problem if the money constituted real savings. The problem is they are not, at least not by any legal or general definition.

In the 2015 budget, the henchmen of Aquino inserted their own definition of savings, allowing them to declare unspent items in the budget by midyear when, for all intents and purposes, savings are supposed to be that part of the budget that has not been spent at the end of the year. Nowhere in the world can anyone find a definition of savings that pertains to money unspent in the middle of a spending year.

Even a small child understands fully what savings means. You give a child two pesos as baon when he goes to school in the morning and, when he comes home in the afternoon with a peso still left unspent, he runs to tell his mother that he has been able to save one peso from his baon. He does not tell anyone at noontime that he already saved one peso because he knows there is still the afternoon wherein it is possible for him to spend it as well.

But Aquino and his henchmen are bent on corralling the budget way before its lifetime in order for the money to be diverted into other purposes, which at this time should already be very clear to everybody what it is. In just a short while it will be 2015, the year before the elections. It is the year when political forces start making their own political budgets for the campaign.

Many suspect that the illegally constituted savings, arrested at midyear before the full time they are supposed to be spent has wound down, are headed for a very political destination and not the ends for which they have been appropriated. It is a most obnoxious form of stealing because it not only steals money away from the real purpose of its appropriation, it also insults the intelligence of taxpayers by having them believe savings can be understood in many other ways.

That is why many of the victims of Yolanda have been so frustrated with their government, which has abdicated its role of provider for its citizens, leaving them instead in the care of foreign governments and organizations who continue to help them to this day. And while their own government has orphaned them, that very government is busy making devious ways to take the money intended for the good of the country and spend it for its own political purposes.

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