Disputing the tale of anti-people budget proposals through collective action and opposition

September 13, 2011
Outcrop official student publication of University of the Philippines – Baguio

The tale of the annual budget proposal and deliberation is a recurring tale of the government’s anti-people orientation and the call on the people to assert its demands and participate in the state’s affairs which all concern them.
The tale is about how the government prioritizes debt servicing and military services over the basic social services that it must render to its people. We hear the facts and figures year after another, and for the budget proposal next year which was first announced a day after the second State of the Nation Address of the Aquino administration, there is no good news.

Of the 1.8167 trillion budget under the National Expenditure Program, P357 billion is allocated for interest payments. Last year, the budget for debt payment experienced a phenomenal increase of P80.9 billion. The budget for debt payment makes up for 70% of the whole national budget. The budget for the military increased from P104.7 billion to P107.9 billion this year. Also, 39.5 billion is allocated for Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) – the notorious dole-out answer of the government on poverty. CCT funds were only 10.9 billion last 2010 and 29.2 billion this year.

In stark contrast, the budget for social services is on the decline. Despite a seeming increase in the Education budget from more than 200 billion to 238.8 billion this year, the 30 billion increase will mainly go for Personal Services. This is not an exercise of political will, but an automatic increase mandated by the law since the third tranche of the Salary Standardization Law that aims to raise the salaries of government employees will be implemented next year. This budget proposal for education is way below the 6% recommendation of the United Nations and is grossly insufficient to address the shortages in books, chairs, rooms and teachers.

Moreover, the Universal Kindergarten program needs P18 billion to hire teachers for the 2.3 million 5-year old kids but the government allotted only 1.9 billion for this. The Aquino government targets to build only 45,231 classrooms out of the 152,000 shortage. Only 13,000new teachers will be hired despite the need for 103,000.

The Aquino government also decided to slash the budget of hospitals and social services. The P44.4 billion allocated for health services is far from the P90 billion actually needed for the people’s health needs.

In essence, while the government allocates increasing budget for debt payment and military, it is unwilling to spend for education, health and housing services. This only shows the kind of orientation the government wants the national budget to take – a budget that is anti-people because of systematically neglecting social services which they should provide for its citizens.

While the tale of the government’s neglect of the basic social services continues, so must be the tale of people’s collective action and firm opposition to this situation. And our collective action must not only continue, it must also gather strength that will overcome the challenges posed by the present condition. Now, it gets more pressing for us to continue with intensified vigor and commitment the tale of the Iskolars ng Bayan fighting for the issues hounding not just the studentry and the university but the entire Filipino people. We all know the idea that is usually branded in rhetorical speeches – “Iskolar ng Bayan, Iskolar para sa bayan” – now is the time to put this idea into practice. Let us show our support in opposing the Aquino administration’s massive budget cuts in basic social services.
Here are the activities slated for our campaign against the massive budget cuts:

September 14-22: Room-to-Room and educational discussions: Listen to discussion groups about budget cuts and then share the information to your blocmates, orgmates, classmates, housemate and friends both inside and outside the campus.
KABATAAN A hundred Thousand Signature Campaign against Budget Cuts: Show your support against the budget cuts by signing on the signature campaign and be part of the target 100,000 signatures all over the region that will be presented to the our Congressmen.

September 16 (Friday): Multi-sectoral Press Conference against Budget Cuts at UP Baguio: Listen as representatives from the students, faculty, and non-academic staff are pestered by the issue of Budget Cut. Prepare questions, engage in discussions and understand the issue more clearly; Black Friday Day, wear BLACK!

September 20 (Tuesday): Forum on the education situation and the education budget in the Philippines: Attend the forum at the Bulwagang Juan Luna auditorium from 1-5 in the afternoon as KABATAAN Partylist Representative Raymond Palatino along with representatives from all sectors within the university tackle the link between the annual budget cuts on education and the entire situation of the education in the Philippines.

September 22 (Thursday): Campout/Cultural Jamming/Symbolic Bonfire Day: Be part of the day-long event that will showcase alternative forms of registering our dissent towards the budget cuts. Performances and discussions will be made by different organizations in support of the campaign. The event will be highlighted by setting up a large bonfire where Aquino’s policies will be symbolically burned.

September 23 (Friday): Ecunemical Mass/Boodle Fight/ Unity March: As the peak activity of our campaign, we will conclude our strike week with a unity march where we will create human chains to show our indefatigable stance against the budget cut. This will be our concluding activity for the semester which we will continue with greater enthusiasm in the next semester when the budget approval comes forth.

The fight for a pro-people budget, a budget that puts the welfare and interest if the Filipino people above all else is a fight for every UPian and every Filipino. This is when history happens. This is not the time for mere watching, this is the time for acting and taking part in creating history!