IT HAS been described as an “investment in the next generation,” with its supposed results of millions of healthier, better educated Filipinos not expected to be realized anytime soon. But the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program is also an investment that is drawing a substantial chunk of its capital from foreign loans, a fact that has many observers raising red flags.
“The poor of the future will be the ones who will carry the burden of paying off this debt,” says Freedom from Debt Coalition Executive Director Milo Tanchuling, who believes it would be better if the CCT relied on locally sourced funds. That the government is also vague about alternative funding prospects for the program has only made those like Tanchuling uneasy – and wondering if it’s an initiative that is sustainable.
SHE HAD neither bought a lotto ticket nor joined a TV game show. But Marissa felt like she won the jackpot anyway late last year, when her family was chosen as one of the recipients of the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program.
After all, it meant her family would be receiving P800 a month, and while that has since proved inadequate to sustain her brood of four, whatever cash she can lay her hands on is welcome, especially now that her husband, a returnee from suddenly protest-prone Saudi Arabia, has been jobless for the last two months.
WHEN THE 15th Congress opened last June, there seemed to be renewed energy toward passing the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, which had floundered in the legislature’s previous incarnation, just when transparency advocates had thought it was about to be ratified.
In the House of Representatives, Quezon representative Lorenzo ‘Erin’ Tañada III, a staunch FOI advocate and a member of the Liberal Party, convened a technical working group to jumpstart the process. At the other end of the metropolis, the Senate committee on public information, chaired by Senator Gregorio Honasan, held a hearing to discuss the bill.
But the momentum to pass the measure has since fizzled and the Aquino administration’s flip-flop on the bill appears to be the main cause of the lack of legislative activity on it.
DRIFT and confusion. Some pockets of transparency but most everywhere, a predilection for opaqueness and more barriers to access in place. This is the access to information regime that lingers in the Philippines nearly a year after Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III came to power on a “Social Contract with the Filipino People,” which he said would be defined by transparency, accountability, and good governance.
But a seven-month PCIJ audit of how 27 national agencies deal with access to information requests shows spotty proof of Aquino’s recipe for good governance in the processes and practices of these agencies. While a few stand out as exemplars of transparency, the majority remain stuck in the old ways of opaque government, with some even sliding back into darker corners.
A CLEAR, working system – with specific procedures and dedicated staff personnel – triggers quick, correct, and complete action by some government agencies on access to information requests.
But the absence of such a system in most other agencies, as well as the lack of fully defined rules and procedures that all agencies must observe in responding to requests, remain barriers to access.
IF MONEY is the root of all evil, particularly in the corruption-tainted Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), then perhaps the government might do well to deny soldiers access to cold cash.
At the same time, however, it must make sure that the logistics and supplies get to the battlefield in the right quantity at the right time.
Or perhaps the government might require that all military contracts for goods and services be covered by a strictly enforced electronic procurement system.
As well, if the logistics system is good and efficient, the government might ban the conversion of funds and congressional insertions in the AFP’s budget altogether.
The PCIJ talked to regular people on the street and asked them about their knowledge about the government’s budget processes.