Understanding how government works

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    ‘The first spending problem occurred perhaps because while Congress authorized the DSWD to spend, there is no money in the treasury to use.’

    THE business of government, as it concerns the executive and legislative departments, is simple. The executive collects taxes from the people and implements a program on how these are to be spent for services that benefit the nation. The legislative controls the purse by pouring over and passing a national budget year after year, sometimes on time, sometimes late.

    Various departments of the executive branch go to Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate — every year to defend their budgets, and oftentimes they get the amounts they requested. Sometimes, lawmakers become conscious of their real need and put in extra.

    The problem is that these budgetary allocations may be released to the particular department but remained unused, or may not be released at all. So the original intent of delivering certain services to the Filipino people is negated. When the amounts involved are big, this genuinely poses a problem.

    In the Senate during the budget deliberations, Sen. Franklin Drilon scored the non-disbursement of P83 billion under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), saying it is “almost criminal” to withhold funds during these times when hundreds of thousands of Filipinos are facing climate and public health crises. “This can’t go on. We have money but we can’t give it to those who need it the most. If P83 billion is available and it is not being used, then this is almost criminal,” Drilon said.

    Then Sen. Francis Pangilinan proposed to the Senate to pass a resolution urging the DSWD to release the funds to help victims of the recent typhoons and add it to the government’s COVID-19 efforts. Senate President Vicente Sotto III, majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and other senators agreed to pass the resolution this week.

    Turning to another topic, Sen. Pia Cayetano also expressed her frustration over the non-release of the P35-million allocation of the DSWD supposedly for the hiring of foster care and adoption social worker personnel. Cayetano noted that the amount is still “in limbo” while there are around 1.8 million Filipino children “who are neglected, abandoned, left behind” and thus badly needing the succor of these social workers.

    Cayetano has checked that the budget is intact, but the implementation is not moving, because the DBM required the DSWD to justify the expenditure. The senator asked, “What is there to justify? There are an estimated 1.8 million children who need to be put in loving homes and we put P35 million already to cover the plantilla positions.”

    The first spending problem occurred perhaps because while Congress authorized the DSWD to spend, there is no money in the treasury to use. In the second problem, there is money, but bureaucratic red tape is in the way of implementation.

    This is how the government works for us.