P10B SAP savings could be a red herring
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - September 30, 2020 - 12:00am

In a different time, any disclosure of huge savings from any government budget deserves applause. For it could indicate sound fiscal management and conscientious husbanding of the people's money. But the SAP or Social Amelioration Program is a spending program. The huge funding behind it was meant to be spent. It was meant to tide over the country, especially the vulnerable sectors, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To say that some P10 billion had been saved from the SAP's initial funding of more than P200 billion raises eyebrows instead of wine glasses. Right off the bat, President Duterte had said the money was for everyone, that everybody would get his share of aid. Not only was aid needed, it was needed fast. That is why the Bayanihan law backstopping the SAP was passed in record time, earning rare plaudits for a normally sluggish Congress.

It is very scandalous and offensive to say P10 billion had been saved from the SAP fund when so many people, including the primary beneficiaries, never set eyes on even a shadow of the fund. From the start, there already seemed a clear design to deprive some people of SAP aid contrary to the assurance of the president.

In this regard, Duterte may be held to account for what happened to the SAP. He failed to put his foot down and uphold what he himself promised, that everybody would get aid. Right after giving that assurance, the vultures promptly pounced, giving their different interpretations of a presidential promise that needed no interpretation. Nothing could have been more unambiguous and clear than saying "everybody will get aid."

Why Duterte allowed the SAP, or at least how he meant it to be used, to be hijacked, I do not know. The president normally is very bull-headed. That many officials are now in hot water over anomalies related to the SAP money should show Duterte that he should have had a more direct hand in the SAP distribution if he had truly meant the fund to aid everybody.

Be that as it may, at least there is P10 billion that did not fall into the wrong hands. If the savings did not go to the intended beneficiaries, at least it is back in government coffers. But why am I not convinced? Why am I not reassured? How come there is this nagging doubt sticking up the doorway to my sigmoid colon? How come there is this smell of fish in front of my nose?

Government agencies normally do not incur savings, at least not in such humongous amounts as P10 billion. Normally, the SOP for government agencies in case of savings is to splurge it on junkets euphemistically disguised as seminars and field trips. The dead giveaway to the truth behind these so-called personnel development programs is that they are always, always to the best and the newest resorts and tourist destinations.

I am not happy about this P10 billion savings from a fund that was meant to be spent down to the last centavo because I strongly suspect P10 billion is not the only unspent amount. What if it was P20 billion that was deliberately not spent? Or even just P15 billion? Declaring just P10 billion out of an actual P15 billion "savings" translates to a cool FIVE B. This is just suspicion, of course. I hope for the sake of those who didn't get any aid it isn't true.

SAP
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