Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday scored the non-disbursement of the P83-billion budget under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) saying it is “almost criminal” to withhold funds at a time millions of Filipinos are facing a crisis.

drilon 1 - Drilon, other senators baffled that DSWD has P83 B undisbursed funds
Senator Franklin Drilon (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“I would repeat, this is almost criminal. Hindi pwedeng magpatuloy ito. Mayroon tayong pera pero hindi natin ibinibigay sa nangangailangan (This can’t go on. We have money but we can’t give it to those who need it the most),” Drilon said during the Senate’s deliberation on the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021.

“Wala na tayong mukhang maihaharap sa taumbayan. May pera tayo pero ayaw nating gumawa ng proyekto. (We can’t face the people anymore. We have money but we don’t want to do any projects).

There is P83-billion in the coffers of the DSWD. This is a very substantial fund,” Drilon reiterated.

Drilon further pointed out that since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, 10 million Filipinos have been rendered jobless, five million Filipinos are also experiencing hunger.

“Yet, excuse me for saying this, not to distribute P83 billion to our affected countrymen is almost criminal. I say that with emphasis. If P83 billion is available and is not being used.

“Is it because there are no funds that would back up? May pera ba? Yes, we have authorized so much for the budget. We know that the budget is only an authorization. But if there’s no cash to back up the budget item, there would be no release,” he stressed.

Drilon said there is reason to suspect that there is no fund to back up the authorization.

“My statement that the P80-billion available cash, then it becomes simply more than being criminal because the fund is there but you do not disburse it. In the meantime, there are five million Filipino families going hungry.

“The economy will benefit if we disburse it. We will solve the social issue of hunger and we will stimulate the economy by putting funds in the pockets of the people. Hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit ito ang sitwasyon natin (I don’t understand why we are in this kind of situation),” Drilon stressed.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan then urged 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.

“There is the urgency to release these funds because our people are dying, our people are jobless, our people are hungry,” Pangilinan said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri and other senators agreed to pass the resolution this week.

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