Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, vice-chairman of the Senate finance committee, has expressed his full support for the 2021 budgets of the Office of the President (OP) and its technical assistance arm, the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), during a budget hearing that he presided yesterday.
The Finance sub-committee ‘’F’’ approved the proposed 2021 budgets of OP and PMS at the committee level after several senators expressed their support and did not pose further questions.
In his opening statement, Go urged the government to remain strong and united as the country overcomes the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.
“In these trying times and the prospect of an uncertain future, this is my clarion call to each and every one of us,” he said.
“We must never surrender. We should relentlessly fight and defend our country in the war against our invisible enemy,” he stressed, adding that it is in this same spirit that President Duterte, with the help of the OP and PMS, has worked to win the war against COVID-19.
Go noted the country’s decreasing number of COVID-19 cases which has fallen to 2,500 new cases per day while the number of new cases in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the pandemic, has also decreased to less than 1,000 new cases per day.
“I am certain that with the leadership of our President Duterte, and by applying a whole-of-nation approach in the war against COVID-19, our nation will be able to defeat this virus,” said Go.
He emphasized that the President plays a central role in national security management and that the welfare of the Filipino nation has remained Duterte’s primordial concern. He expressed his full faith and confidence that the Office of the President would exercise the use of its fund judiciously.
The senator also reiterated Malacanang’s call for the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1844, a measure he co-authored together with other colleagues in the Senate, which will give the President of the Philippines the authority to expedite the processing of permits, licenses and certifications as well as curb red tape and prevent corruption.
“Permits, licenses and certifications take one month before being processed, even three months, pinapatulog po sa lamesa, hanggang makalimutan na lang po at hindi ko po maintindihan bakit po pinapatulog. So, merong anomalya diyan kapag sinasadyang pinapatulog ang mga papeles (they allow it to sleep in their table, until it is forgotten which I don’t understand why they have to do this. So, there is anomaly if they intended not to act on these papers), when they can be done in one week or even three days,” Go explained.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea gave his assurance during the hearing that the proposed bill would be certified urgent by the President.
Go also renewed his warning to unscrupulous and corrupt government officials that they would be held accountable for their actions.
He particularly warned Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers involved in the pastillas scheme.
“Mahiya naman kayo, ang kakapal ng mukha ninyo. Kapag hindi kayo umayos at tumigil, talagang yayariin po kayo. Totoo po ‘yan, ipapakain sa inyo ang perang ninakaw ninyo mula sa taumbayan. Talagang kakainin ninyo ‘yung pastillas na ‘yan na pera ang laman. Hintayin niyo lang po,’’ he said. (Shame on you. If you will not stop, we will hit you. That is true, we will let you eat the money that you stole from the people. You will really eat that pastillas with money inside. Just wait.)
The senator from Davao also lauded President Duterte for issuing a proclamation order that called for a special session of Congress to ensure the timely passage of the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.
He warned that the country could not afford to operate on a re-enacted budget next year.
Go emphasized that the proposed 2021 budget contains important allocations to address the health crisis, help the economy recover, and provide further assistance to poor and vulnerable Filipinos.
“Where will we get government funding for COVID-19 recovery measures, such as purchase of vaccines, testing equipment, medical equipment, and PPEs for our frontliners? Where will we get funding for the construction of quarantine and medical facilities, such as hospitals and health centers?” asked Go.
“How will we revive our economy? How will we provide reprieve to those who lost their jobs? How will we provide funding for the shift to blended learning? How will we help the returning OFWs and those who want to return to their provinces? How will we return to our normal way of life if our budget will not be responsive to the needs of the current situation?” he continued.
Go urged fellow lawmakers to immediately act on the measure, set aside politics, not waste time, and focus on the work to be done in passing a sufficient and responsive budget for next year.
“Ituluy-tuloy natin ang trabaho para maipasa ang budget na kailangan ng mga Pilipino ngayon para makabangon muli. Hindi naman tayo estudyante na kailangan pang mag-recess or mag suspend,’’ he added. (We will continue working to ensure the passage of the budget that the Filipinos need it now in order to recover. We are unlike the students that need recess or suspension [of classes or session.)
During the hearing, Go also asked about the welfare of the locally stranded individuals (LSIs).
The PMS reported that, in coordination with other concerned agencies, they had successfully transported thousands of LSIs back to their home provinces while complying with the necessary health and safety guidelines.
“Paki-sigurado lang po na nasusunod ‘yung mga health and quarantine protocols, lalong-lalo na po sa mga receiving LGUs. Sa totoo lang po, kawawa talaga ang Pilipino. Minsan diyan lang po sa tabi ng sidewalk, naghihintay ng tulong. Importante makauwi sila sa kanilang mga pamilya kung saan may tutulong sa kanila kaysa nakahilera lang sila sa sidewalk naghihintay ng tulong dito sa Metro Manila,’’ he pointed out. (Just make it sure that health and quarantine protocols are followed especially by the receiving LGUs. In truth, I really pity the Filipinos. Sometimes they’re on the sidewalks waiting for help. It is important that they can go home to their families instead of sleeping on sidewalks waiting for assistance here in Metro Manila.)
“Pare-parehas po tayong Pilipino, magtulungan, magmalasakit at magbayanihan po tayo,’’ he added. (We are all Filipinos, Let’s help one another.)