[28 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 173 views]

Youth leaders led by Kabataan Partylist blasted President Benigno Aquino III’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA), saying that the over two-hour long speech is full of recycled rhetoric, while silent on key issues including worsening youth unemployment, human rights, and land reform.

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[30 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 206 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon has called on the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education (CHTE) to immediately look into the fiasco hounding the Southwestern University College of Medicine (SWU-CM) in Cebu that has left the future of some 500 medical students in limbo.

In a report from the Cebu Daily News, it was revealed that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is refusing to recognize the school records of medicine graduates of SWU-CM, thus endangering the students’ eligibility for the upcoming medical board examination.

CHED has earlier issued a cease-and-desist order to SWU-CM, following a corporate dispute that questioned the recognition of the said school, along with the Matias H. Aznar Memorial College (MHAM).

Both schools sprung from the former Southwestern College, which was given government recognition in 1954. A family dispute resulted in the split between the SWU-CM and MHAM.

The dispute recently escalated, with CHED only recognizing the MHAM.

“The House should immediately intervene in the ongoing dispute, as the fate of some 500 medical students is at stake. Finishing medical school is a long and expensive battle, and we can’t let these students suffer and have their school records and their degrees invalidated just because of a family dispute,” said Ridon, who is a member of the CHTE.

The affected students earlier vented out frustration, with some students worrying about CHED’s refusal to issue a special order to recognize their school records.

While being one of the most affordable medical school in Cebu, studying in SWU-CM can cost upwards of P100,000 per year.

Ridon said he will file a formal resolution this week to jumpstart the inquiry on the dispute.

“We call on CHTE Chair Roman Romulo to join us in immediately looking into the matter. Time is of the essence in this issue,” the lawmaker added.cover tita ipay

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[29 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 172 views]

Bad habits die hard.

This may be the motto of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Aquino administration as they prepared their final national budget proposal that was submitted to Congress yesterday.

Despite DBM Secretary Florencio Abad’s assurance that the Aquino administration’s final budget proposal is “pork-free,” a cursory reading of the general provisions of the 2016 national budget reveal that the President will still be given a wide latitude to force the accumulation of “savings” in a manner similar to the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

“A cursory reading of the P3-trillion national budget proposal reveals that the provisions on the redefinition of savings and augmentation that have been first inserted in the 2015 General Appropriations Act have all been carried over to the 2016 budget proposal,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said Wednesday.

In Section 63 of the General Provisions of the 2016 proposed budget, it is stated that “savings may be declared when there are balances of any programmed appropriations” resulting from the following:

  • “Discontinuance or abandonment of a P/A/P (program, activity or project) by the head of agency concerned, for justifiable causes not attributable to the fault or negligence of the agency and which will render it impossible to implement said P/A/P in FY 2016”
  • “Non-commencement or the inability of an agency to obligate an allotment for justifiable causes not attributable to the fault or negligence of the agency and which will render it impossible to implement said P/A/P in FY 2016”
  • “Improved systems and efficiencies in the implementation of the P/A/Ps and delivery of services which are consistent with their performance targets”
  • “A lower contract cost than that provided in the approved budget for the contract”
  • “Unused personnel services costs pertaining to (i) unfilled, vacant or abolished positions; (ii) non-entitlement to allowances and benefits; (iii) leaves of absence without pay; and (iv) death of pensioners, decrease in the number of retirees, or other related causes”

Meanwhile, Section 64 of the 2016 budget proposal states that augmentation refers to “the act of the constitutional officers authorized to use savings in their respective appropriations to cover a deficiency in any existing P/A/P within their respective offices. A deficiency in a P/A/P may result from:

  • Unforeseen modifications or adjustments in the P/A/P; or
  • Re-assessment in the use, prioritization and/or distribution of resources

“In previous GAAs, except the 2015 version, there were no such things as ‘non-commencement’ or ‘unforeseen modifications.’ One strict requirement to determine savings is that the fund is still available after the final discontinuance or abandonment of the PAP. Under the new definition, DBM did away with the requirement of finality, thus expanding the president’s discretion over public funds, vastly clipping the congressional power of the purse, and essentially legalizing DAP or post-enactment fund jiggling,” Ridon said.

“Congress should not make the same mistake twice. We have passed similar DAP-like provisions in the 2015 GAA, thereby allowing the Executive branch to effectively discontinue, stop or fail to begin the implementation of an approved P/A/P even in the early parts of the fiscal year and in turn forcibly transform the appropriations for such into savings. Passing such provisions again will mean surrendering the congressional power of the purse anew,” Ridon explained.

“DBM calls the 2016 proposed budget the Aquino administration’s ‘legacy budget.’ Yet if said provisions will again be passed, Aquino’s real legacy will be the expansion of executive grip over the purse strings of the nation, and the dismantling of checks and balances when it comes to public finance,” Ridon added.

According to the 2016 National Expenditure Program, DBM estimates that the government will be able to generate some P67.5 billion in savings next year.

“Aquino has already abused executive power to impose maximum discretion over public funds. Who knows what his successor will do, given the power instituted by provisions in the 2016 budget that essentially legalizes DAP?” Ridon asked.cover tita ipay

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[29 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 559 views]

The Aquino administration has realigned a total of P323.6 billion out of the P2.26-trillion national budget in 2014, data from the 2016 National Expenditure Program (NEP) revealed.

In page 951 of the recently-released NEP, it is shown that the Aquino administration pooled P90.4 billion from various departments and agencies and P233.2 billion from the Special Purpose Funds (SPFs) and subsequently transferred said funds to several agencies and SPFs.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submitted the proposed 2016 national budget to Congress yesterday, and subsequently made the budget proposal available online later in the afternoon.

Budgetary transfers refer to the movement of resources either within an agency or from one fund or agency to another.

“A specter is haunting the national budget – the specter of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Even if the government supposedly discontinued DAP in 2013, the president and the executive department were still able to tinker with hundreds of billions of public funds, transferring them from the original object of expenditure in the Congress-approved budget to another. This is basically usurpation of the congressional power of the purse,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.

While the NEP does not reveal details on the realignment of funds, a document uploaded in the DBM website does.

Ridon said that certain budgetary transfers are suspicious, such as the transfer of P9.6 billion from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Public Works and Highways for the construction of “farm-to-market roads” and the transfer of P1.1 billion to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao from the budget of various government agencies.

Funds from several SPFs were also transferred to other SPFs, including a P2.6 billion transfer from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund.

“On paper, the transfers seem to be innocuous and ordinary. But what we want to point out is that the president and the executive agencies under him are realigning billions of public funds with little to no public scrutiny. Maximum discretion is at play, reducing the congressional approval of the budget to nothing but a mere ceremonial gesture,” Ridon said.

The legislator stressed that the P323.6 billion realigned by the Aquino administration is over 14 times bigger than the P22.5 billion supplemental budget for 2014 approved by Congress.

“What’s the use of having a line-item budget when the executive department can just tinker with the funds at will after enactment? Such fund transfers are highly vulnerable to corruption. The vestiges of the pork barrel system may even be hiding between those lines of budget transfers,” Ridon said.

Other documents obtained from DBM show that budget transfers in the 2015 budget are also prevalent.

“Just days after Aquino’s SONA, his tuwid na daan rhetoric is starting to unravel anew. These figures reveal that DAP is very much alive, and that the president’s fiscal dictatorship is being practiced blatantly under everyone’s noses,” Ridon said.

​Source: 2016 National Expenditure Program, Volume III, page 951

​Source: 2016 National Expenditure Program, Volume III, page 951

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[28 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 428 views]

“It’s our solemn obligation as representatives of the poor and the marginalized sectors to speak truth to power.”

This is Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon’s statement in the wake of the silent protest conducted by members of the Makabayan bloc yesterday right after President Benigno Aquino III concluded his final State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The seven lawmakers, including Ridon, unfurled banners carrying several messages including “pork barrel king,” “tuta ng Kano,” “mapang-aping asendero,” “human rights violator,” and “serbisyo palpak.”

“On part of the Makabayan bloc, we believe that the flash protest was very well within the boundary of our constitutional right to air our grievances. The issues we raised were issues vital for the Filipino people; concerns that were blatantly absent from the president’s speech,” Ridon said.

“If Congress released a memo instructing everyone who attended the SONA that the only thing we could do is to applaud Aquino profusely, then we did not receive such memo. Hindi naman po yata tamang palakpakan lang ang pwedeng itugon sa Pangulo, hindi po ba?” the lawmaker said.

“As elected representatives of marginalized sectors of society, our first obligation is to reveal the people’s genuine sentiments and grievances. The issues we raised – the worsening human rights situation, continuing corruption, landlessness, deteriorating public services, stagnating wages – all of these are relevant issues that the President preferred to sweep under the rug. This is why it is only just to speak truth to power, even if everyone else would rather sit pretty and applaud,” Ridon ended.KPL logo clean version

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[27 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 204 views]

Thousands march to bid Aquino ‘good riddance’

 

No amount of sugar-coating, turn of phrase, or even a “magic mic” can cover for President Benigno Aquino III’s “catastrophic” presidency, youth groups said hours before the president’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“Lest he be mistaken, Aquino can no longer fool the Filipino people with his clever turn of phrase. The people are well aware of how his administration took the nation – not to the straight path – but to the path of disaster, corruption, and the deep quagmire of poverty. Not even a magic mic can make the platitudes in his final SONA sound convincing,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.

Youth and student groups marched along with workers, peasants, women, and other sectors of society in what is expected to be the largest SONA mobilization throughout Aquino’s stint as president.

Straight to jail

The groups, led by Kabataan Partylist, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (KARATULA), Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and Youth Act Now brought along large “Aquino bubble heads,” which portray the president in jail.

“For one last time, the youth and the people will march hand in hand to expose Aquino as a liar who gave in to the fire. Mr. President, we don’t expect you to be honest in your last SONA. With your anti-youth and anti-people policies, you failed and betrayed your bosses big time. So good riddance!” Anakbayan Chair Vencer Crisostomo said.

The youth leaders said that Aquino should go “straight to jail” after his term expires. “That’s where a pork barrel king deserves to be in,” Crisostomo said.

We’ve got bad blood

For LFS, the Aquino administration has “bad blood” with students, especially with the enactment of the K to 12 Law.

“Mr. President, never forget that we got bad blood. Your anti-student policies, including tuition deregulation and the flagship K to 12 program, has caused and exacerbated problems that you and your administration can’t solve. You made a really deep cut in the hearts and minds of the youth, and generations of students will remember you as the president who pushed for the calamitous 12-year education cycle,” LFS Spokesperson Charisse Bañez said.

NUSP and CEGP, meanwhile blasted Aquino’s “legacy of tuition hikes and unemployment.”

According to NUSP, in Aquino’s five years in office, tuition rates increased by an average of 108 percent at the national level, from P257 per unit to P574. The rate of increase is even higher at the National Capital Region, at 143 percent.

Meanwhile, about 1.5 million school-aged Filipino youth are out of school, one of the highest figures in the world.

“Aquino will undoubtedly harp on the supposed achievements of his administration in his last SONA. But one thing that he will omit is how his regime has worsened the education crisis in the country,” NUSP President Sarah Elago said.

Youth leaders also decried the massive youth unemployment in the country, coupled with the extant policy of contractualization and labor export.

Based on conservative official figures from the Philippine Statistical Authority’s (PSA) January 2015 Labor Force Survey released last March 12, about 4.1 million Filipinos are unemployed as of January 2015. Of the total unemployed, the age group 15 to 24 years comprised 47.3 percent or about 2 million, while the age group 25 to 34, 31.6 percent or about 1.3 million.

Taken together, about 3.3 million youths aged 15-34 are unemployed as of January. The PSA also noted that one in five unemployed Filipinos is a college graduate.

“Aquino’s presidency has pushed youth and students deeper into the pit of desperation. The high cost of education, coupled with the stagnant job creation in the country, has resulted to a poverty bonanza for many students and their families. If there was anyone who truly benefitted from Aquino’s regime, that’s his cronies and rich friends, whose wealth not only doubled but tripled,” CEGP President Marc Lino Abila said.

“Today, we condemn the Aquino administration for being satisfied in its mediocre programs, and patting its back for fake reforms that did nothing to improve the situation of our Filipino youth. Mr. President, as you utter your lies in the House podium later, surrounded by your cheerleaders from both houses of Congress, may you come to your senses and realize that all your supposed achievements are mere spins,” Ridon ended. SONA call out