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The feud

"Even angels fall from grace."

Although Rep. Rolando Andaya has given up his position as Majority Floor Leader, he took the position as Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and said that the investigation against so-called budget insertions will continue. He has not given up his desire to go after Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. This is in spite of the remonstration coming from the Palace that the House stop its media campaign against Diokno.

Rep Andaya apparently wants to fight to the finish. If his effort is for the purpose of uncovering anomaly, we can only laud him for it. But could there be another reason? Since I am not in the inner circle, I cannot categorically say.

This fight is a bit unusual in some ways. Normally, we would not be seeing any public feud of individuals who have occupied the same position. This is because there is that practice that if people happen to have occupied the same position, these people do not normally talk openly about things that goes on in that office—they are considered trade secrets. But Rep. Andaya has gone ahead and done that, therefore giving the public a rare glimpse of how powerful the position of Budget Secretary is. The public for the first time is seeing how public funds can easily be juggled for whatever reason that the Budget office wants. This was shown when Diokno parked P75 billion for infrastructure in the 2019 national budget which the implementing agency, DPWH did not even know initially. There are other insertions. The immediate casualty of this feud is that government workers will have to wait until the fight is settled if at all or when the 2019 national budget is eventually passed before finally getting the fourth tranche of their salary increases. This includes the increase in pension benefits of uniformed retirees from the police and military.

Also, with the government apparently overflowing with so much money that the budget office is having difficulty finding ways to spend the funds, this is unconscionable when retirees like the police are still owed 32 months of pay differentials or teachers’ salaries could not get salary increases to allow them to live decently. Given that the life expectancy of Filipinos is about 72 years, many of these police retirees would already be dead before the pay differentials are released.

Government workers are always being told that there is no money available, but they soon find out that the government is awash with cash—and all because of the feud of the two. But even with so much money, our business leaders continue to find ways to increase taxes for the long-suffering small-time taxpayers who have no choice but cough out hard-earned money to the government only for the budget office and the House of Representatives to quarrel over how to allocate the pork.

This is the most important outcome of this feud between Rep. Andaya and Sec. Diokno. The public now has a better idea on where and how government money is spent. This is the scandal. No wonder even with a P3.8-trillion national budget, the number of poor people could not be brought down significantly. The money does not trickle down to ordinary citizens like you and me. The money stops somewhere in the middle—most probably in the bank accounts of corrupt public officials and enterprising individuals who are able to partner with unscrupulous public officials to make a lot of money.

It is sad, what we are witnessing. As to the continuing fight between the two gentlemen, we will have to wait and see where and how it will end. If the intention of Andaya is to get rid of Diokno or charge him in court, I doubt whether thiscould happen.

Sooner or later, everything about this mess will come out. In fact, we know quite a bit already. Senator Lacson who has looked very closely at the P75-billion so-called insertion has vouched for the integrity of Diokno. Unlike Rep. Andaya who has a string of cases in the courts, Diokno up to this time has at least kept his nose clean. Still, with the kind of money circulating, the temptation is always great.

Could Ben Diokno be one of the few government officials who can resist the temptation? Let us hope so. We have to bear in mind, however, that even angels fall from grace. Case in point: Isn’t a fallen angel?

* * *

Both Houses of Congress are in the process of studying the possibility of amending Republic Act 10630 of July 23, 2012 otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act for the purpose of bringing down the age wherein individuals could be charged criminally down to the age of nine.

This is the initial position of the House while the Senate thinks that 12 years is the more appropriate age. The reason for the amendment is probably the increasing number of minors committing crimes. But this is hardly a good enough reason because the current law already provides the government or law enforcement agencies with the tools to determine whether a minor committed the criminal act with discernment and therefore could be charged as an adult.

Every case must be treated separately because every case is unique. Bringing the age down so low will just destroy a lot of young lives. After all, we live in a country that believes everybody deserves a second chance.

Topics: Rolando Andaya , House Appropriations Committee , Benjamin Diokno , DPWH. Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act , Congress
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