Group blasts Diokno for calling aid ‘a waste of public funds’

·2 min read
Philippine Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno attends an economic briefing following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr's first State of the Nation Address, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David
Philippine Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno attends an economic briefing following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr's first State of the Nation Address, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

Progressive fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) denounced Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno for calling pandemic-related aid “a waste of public funds.”

“Allow us to tell what’s actually a waste of public funds, it’s paying for the salaries of apathetic and insensitive government officials,” the group’s national chairperson Fernando Hicap said on Tuesday (August 30). “Secretary Diokno treats this life-supporting subsidy as mere alms when it helps hardworking Filipinos get back on their feet and move on with production.”

For PAMALAKAYA, the government’s decision to remove pandemic aid was “unacceptable and unjustifiable”, since many Filipinos’ needs are not being met. On August 15, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) announced key indicators related to poverty and reported that the number of Filipinos under the poverty threshold increased from 17.57 million (2018) to 19.99 million (2021). The country’s headline inflation was also at 6.4 percent last July, the highest since 2018.

“Especially amid the cumulative increases of oil prices and its domino effects to other services, discontinuation of aid distribution is tantamount to state abandonment and neglect,” he said.

During a meeting with the House Committee on Appropriations, the finance chief said that “The giving out of ayuda (aid) in relation to the pandemic is already a waste of public funds.”

He added, “On the giving of ayuda in relation to the crisis, I think that should already be discounted because we have actually fully recovered and because of the limited fiscal space.”

Diokno cited “limited fiscal space”, however, the budget proposal for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) under Sara Duterte is set at P2.31 billion – a stark contrast from her predecessor’s FY 2022 appropriations worth P702.04 million. P500 million out of this proposed amount is dedicated to confidential expenses.

Meanwhile, the Office of the President requested a total of P4.5 billion for confidential and intelligence expenses for FY 2023.

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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