The annual budget brouhaha

An interesting theme from commentaries overseas: a kind of all-pervasive mental and moral exhaustion afflicting national elites. Fin de siècle? The 1968 of our times (see contrasting views on that important year by Tom Stoppard and Tariq Ali; Filipinos had their 1968 in, well, 1970… it takes time for fashions to filter through…)? David Sirota thinks that in the United States, the possibility of a grassroots revolt ought to be considered:

America is in the throes of a powerful new uprising right now..

…this uprising is happening on both the Right and the Left. Like most revolts, it is rooted in a backlash to an Establishment widely seen as corrupt and morally decayed. This uprising has more picket signs and protests than pitchforks and pistols… It is a social phenomenon that is impacting all aspects of public life — our pop culture, our media, and most significantly, our upcoming national elections. It could take our country in a very different direction — perhaps positive (think universal health care, an end to the Iraq War, new trade policies), perhaps frighteningly negative (think immigrant bashing and a war with Iran).

Though today’s uprising has been going on since the two major explosions of the last decade — 9/11 and the Enron disaster — polls indicate that it is now intensifying in ways not seen before. Surveys reveal that the public despises its current president, and more importantly, that America is suffering a crisis of confidence in government as an institution. As Scripps Howard’s 2006 poll found, “anger against the federal government is at record levels” and “widespread resentment and alienation toward the national government appears to be fueling a growing acceptance of conspiracy theories” — most prominent being the one suggesting our leaders helped plot the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The political topography resembles that of the last major uprising in our history — the one that took place in the 1970s. America then as today faced the same crises that have catalyzed uprisings since colonists tossed tea over the sides of boats in Boston harbor: among others, an energy emergency, a national security quagmire, a recession, a financial meltdown, and an attack on democracy.

As that uprising gained steam, Democrats nominated an outsider candidate for the presidency (sound familiar?). But when that outsider was elected he and the Democratic Party didn’t effectively represent that uprising – and that uprising did not go away. On the contrary, it became more intense. And by 1980, conservative organizers used the candidacy of Ronald Reagan to channel that revolt into the full-fledged conservative movement we’ve been living under for a generation. Over the next two decades, this conservative movement changed America domestically (tax cuts and social service cuts), internationally (massive increase in the military budget), and politically (wholly changed electoral map).

This same pace of change could be upon us again today — though one key indicator suggests the specific kind of change could be different. According to Gallup’s biannual survey of attitudes toward social institutions, Americans’ disgust with government resembles that of the late 1970s — but the variation between then and now is the antipathy toward Corporate America. Whereas in 1979 one in three Americans told Gallup’s pollsters they had confidence in big business, today a little less than one in five express the same confidence. In 1979, almost two out of three citizens said they had faith in banks. Today, only two out of five say the same thing.

The trend bodes well for progressives. Conservatives’ close affiliation with big business puts them at a disadvantage in the Left-versus-Right competition to harness the current uprising…

Of course, today’s uprising could be squelched completely, with neither the Right nor the Left capitalizing on it. Many institutions inside our government and our political parties exist specifically to crush populist, mass-based revolts.

Jared Bernstien responds by saying,

David is obviously writing about bottom-up uprisings, in many cases, movements that are a reaction to government failure. But in my experience, these groups eventually are demanding that the government alter its policies. So we’ve got to think on both bottom-up and top-down tracks.

And the problem for the top-down track is that government is in big trouble. I’m speaking at the federal level, but let’s not get too romantic about local cases. I haven’t seen much evidence that Albany works that much better than DC.

There are lots of reasons for this, but certainly one of the main ones is that if you elect people who explicitly prophesize that government is the problem, they will fulfill that prophecy with a vengeance. And yes, they’ll enrich their cronies along the way.

The problem cuts deep into the agencies… The depth of dysfunction is astounding, and it’s going to take years to repair.

David reminds us that our country was founded partly on “the right of the people to alter or abolish” destructive government. I’m in the “alter” camp, and I’d like to hear someone with David’s insights and movement experience hold forth on what it’s going to take to get there. What steps ought we be taking now that will ultimately give progressive uprisings a public conduit through which their goals can be achieved?

Are there echoes in how the police are despised, even attacked, in China? See Cracks in China’s Armor. Is this all in marked contrast, perhaps, to what’s going on in Thailand, where those formerly characterized as reformists are now advocating the dismantling of parliamentary democracy, according to The Asia Sentinel’s anonymous correspondent in Thailand’s “New Politics” Charade:

The New Politics turns out to be a startlingly reactionary proposal to move Thailand’s parliamentary system towards a form of appointed corporatism, or what might be called a selectoral democracy. Thirty percent of MPs would come from elections, perhaps one per province, and the rest of MPS would derive from various occupations and associations. Sondhi says the proportion is not fixed, it’s up for debate.

The rationale for wanting to dismantle Thailand’s electoral system is evident: pro-Thaksin forces keep winning elections. And as Thaksin is said to represent everything bad about Thai politics, he can not be allowed to wield power directly or indirectly. Thus, for Sondhi, and it would seem the PAD leadership as whole, there is now a need to bring about a revolution in political representation.

The idea of examining alternatives to electoral democracy is not without some merit, for it is common knowledge that massive amounts of money are required to win parliamentary seats, making parliament a millionaire’s playground and a source of further monopolization and corruption. It wasn’t always so, Sondhi told the rally. In the 1970s socialist politicians in Thailand could get elected on the basis of their ideology and popular support, but the emergence of dirty politics in the 1980s crushed any such possibility in the present.

The New Politics has interesting antecedents. The PAD leadership has clearly been speaking to military figures (this is now well documented in the Thai language press) who tried to stifle the emergence of parliament in the 1980s. Indeed, selectoral democracy nicely fits with corporatist visions of the old “Revolutionary Council”. The Council, to which General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was said to have an association, held that elections merely led to parliamentary dictatorship and proposed a form of corporate representation to realize the “general will”.

A former communist, Prasert Sapsunthon, was the inspiration for this Thai appropriation of Rousseau, the French theorist of the social contract. Prasert became a leading intellectual among military circles calling for non-elective forms of democracy. When the Revolutionary Council effectively declared itself a provisional government during the political crisis of 1988 the elected Chatichai government took it to court for treason. It then faded into obscurity, but its ideas have never quite gone away, finding support among small rightist groups and even in some labor circles.

The New Politics is unashamedly pro-military and even codifies the conditions under which military intervention may occur. Sondhi has spoken of four conditions for military intervention: when charges of lese majeste are not acted on; when a government is incompetent; when corruption is rife; when a government betrays national sovereignty.

This has striking parallels to many discussions taking place here in the Philippines (e.g., “Should the military be kept out of politics or does military interventionism represent a deus ex machina moment to be ardently desired?” or “The problem with elections is that the electorate elects idiots”, see smoke and Verisimilitude), and reminds me of something I brought up when Adrian Cristobal died: the enduring triumph of Marcos’ concept of a New Society helps explain why Edsa contained the seeds of its own destruction.

The papers today report P1 hike for jeepneys, buses; P10 for taxis. The transport sector has to be placated. Senator Escudero lays down the basis for the next round of placating -of workers- as reported in Inflation cancels wage hike; hope pinned on new law. The Catholic bishops have to be placated, too: Gov’t open to lowering, not scrapping, EVAT on oil.

The problem of course is that soothing all these sectors requires money, and proof of the President putting the nation’s money where her mouth is, will be in the national budget.

Former national treasurer Leonor Briones in her column says something germane to yesterday’s entry (and the foreign commentary above), this time from point of view of economists:

Last week, I talked to two eminent economists. One drew a picture of the gathering of a perfect economic storm. To him, all the signals are already making themselves felt: increased unemployment, accelerating inflation, escalating prices, capital flight, and rise in poverty levels. The social consequences of the economic storm are also building up: increase in suicides, rise in criminality , social disintegration, and loss of hope.

So how come people are not rising in anger? The other economist said that all these negative developments did not occur in one fell swoop. They were building up, one after the other. By the time the perfect economic storm sweeps the country, people will be so weakened they will not have the strength to bestir themselves and take action.

She also happens to think Arroyo’s hold on funds, spending habits ‘dangerous’. One presidential habit I’ve heard about, is that the President travels with a stack of blank government checks when she drops in on local government officials; she then fills in these checks personally, a habit that apparently gives professional bureaucrats the Willies.

Anyway, in her column, Briones says the executive department has to redo the proposed national budget, because the macroeconomic assumptions that served as the budget’s parameters have become obsolete in the months since the Budget Call was made in May. Among the assumptions made were: singe-digit inflation, a balanced budget by this year, and a Peso-Dollar exchange rate of 40 to 43 to 1.

The Inquirer editorial for its part, says that real oversight over the national budget is a Mission impossible.

Anyway, the Palace propaganda machine has begun testing potential messages for the State of the Nation Address. If the Palace number-crunchers are, well, number-crunching furiously now, to come up with new economic assumptions for the national budget, Governor Joey Salceda is also batting for his economic plan by claiming it has presidential approval.

So we can expect the budgetary process to pop in and out of the news in the coming weeks and months. For a closer look at the entire process, visit The Philippine Center for National Budget Legislation. And here’s their book: CNBLbook.pdf which provides a crash course in understanding how the budget’s put together, and what it contains. (The Department of Budget and Management website also makes available the Budget Call for 2009 and last year’s national budget-related documents: the General Appropriations Act for 2008, which was based on the President’s Budget Message for 2008,with supplementary material: the National Expenditures Program FY 2008, Staffing Summary FY 2008 and Budget Expenditures and Sources of Financing 2008.)

I’ve reproduced some charts from the Philippine Center for National Budget Legislation’s book, and supplemented them with some charts I prepared for my show.

The first thing they point out, is that the Executive Department dominates the national budget, with the ratios more or less constant. The 2004 budget, for example, has 68% of the monies devoted to, and in the hands of, the Executive Department, with the next-biggest chunk devoted to debt payments, and a relatively slim percentage for the legislature, the judiciary, and constitutional commissions.


The PCNBL helpfully presents past budgets in a color-coordinated manner:


And then explains what the color-coding means:


Most members of Congress spend their time on the yellow portions, and sometimes run out of time to adequately look into the blue portions, which are meant to supplement the expenses of government offices (in yellow). The blue portions are called Special Purpose Funds, and as this chart shows, they total more than what’s spent for the established offices of the government:


A page from the book explains why Alleba Politics, for example, can complain that the National Government is in arrears to the City of Davao, to the tune of 142 million pesos:



Special Purpose Funds are entirely in the hands of the President, who decides when they’re released and to whom -and this includes the pork barrel funds of members of Congress (a surprisingly slender 3% of the whole) as well as the revenue allocations of Local Government Units. In a sense, then, aside from the fixed (because tied to government’s obligation to fund existing employees and offices) national budget, there is a parallel national budget, one bigger than the fixed budget and purely within the discretion of the chief executive.

This chart shows that of these funds, the biggest chunk is for “Unprogrammed” Funds.


These are, in a sense, promissory funds: if they come in, then they can be spent for certain purposes, still pretty much at the chief executive’s discretion. The book explains this in detail:


These “wish ko lang” funds, in turn, have been growing, percentage-wise:


The book provides a glimpse of the budgets and expenses of the major agencies of the government. By way of illustration, here is a set of charts featuring expenditure programs for the different branches of government, and including samples of two constitutional bodies we all adore, the Comelec and the Ombudsman:







Then there’s a focus on some issues raised by the allocations for various departments and their flagship programs, for example:






As well as an introduction to lesser-known budgetary practices such as earmarking funds. One example the book focuses on is the Motor Vehicles’ User’s Charge, which the group says is the third-largest source of revenue for the government, with a tremendous amount collected in a few years:


The charge, levied on vehicle owners, is meant to be specifically used -or earmarked- for a specific fund, with four main programs funded by it:


Subject to two departments:


Here’s the introduction to the fund in the book:



The organization hopes that their book will enable congressmen to deliberate on the budget more wisely and efficiently, and that it will inform the public so that it can keep tabs on budget preparation and execution.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

250 thoughts on “The annual budget brouhaha

  1. Bravo to you congressman Biazon! I salute you for commenting in this blog.

    More please!!!!!

  2. “Better yet, I would like to invite them to do an observation duty in a Congressman’s office to get a real hands-on experience of how a congressional office is run. That would really provide sufficient authority to those who comment on legislators.”

    They dont have to do this congressman. since you are already in this blog. You can just post a comment to correct seom misconception about how the government or the congress operates. You know if only you got the chance. You dont have to be present here everyday. But please do take some of your time to read the comments here from time to time.

    At please iwasan mapikon sa mga makukulit na commenter dito. Just explain it objectively

  3. Take note too that not all commenters here are in Pinas. I for one is in new York City

    Congressman, You already found a way to reach out to this people. Thats mean you can come to them. They dont have to come to you.

  4. Shades of 1930 in the U.S – What happened to the free markets that was being subsidized by Mr. Public.

    U.S. Weighs Takeover of Two Mortgage Giants

    “The companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have been hit hard by the mortgage foreclosure crisis. Their shares are plummeting and their borrowing costs are rising as investors worry that the companies will suffer losses far larger than the $11 billion they have already lost in recent months. Now, as housing prices decline further and foreclosures grow, the markets are worried that Fannie and Freddie themselves may default on their debt.”

    “Under a conservatorship, the shares of Fannie and Freddie would be worth little or nothing, and any losses on mortgages they own or guarantee — which could be staggering — would be paid by taxpayers.”

    “The government officials said that the administration had also considered calling for legislation that would offer an explicit government guarantee on the $5 trillion of debt owned or guaranteed by the companies. But that is a far less attractive option, they said, because it would effectively double the size of the public debt.”

    “The officials also said that such a step would be ineffective because the markets already widely accept that the government stands behind the companies.”

    “The officials involved in the discussions stressed that no action by the administration was imminent, and that Fannie and Freddie are not considered to be in a crisis situation. But in recent days, enough concern has built among senior government officials over the health of the giant mortgage finance companies for them to hold a series of meetings and conference calls to discuss contingency plans.”

    “A conservatorship or other rescue operation would be the second time in four months that the Bush administration has stepped in to engineer a rescue to prevent the financial system from collapsing. Last March, it forced the sale of Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase to avert a bankruptcy of that venerable investment house.”

    “Officials have also been concerned that the difficulties of the two companies, if not fixed, could damage economies worldwide. The securities of Fannie and Freddie are held by numerous overseas financial institutions, central banks and investors.”

  5. VAT theoretically would be 12% to the total GDP value added –

    12% of Php 7 trillion. The actual collections discounting exemptions and so called leakages I believe would be between Php 400b- Php 500b.

    Government loves it because inflation brings up collections automatically. For an underdeveloped economy it steals more from the poor and working poor.

  6. i can sense depression from the New York Times… watch out Philippines.

    thanks hvrds… it’s very alarming. it’s been alarming but Fannie and Freddie Mac this time ? not good at all.

  7. Congressman Biazon, i saw your name included among Gloria Arroyo’s US visit entourage. If true, i must say i’m very disappointed.

  8. UPn (at 9:08 am), a better use of the 1 million hectares would be to distribute among the rural poor households (and urban poor who want to return to the province) so they can help address the problem of food production for themselves and the rest of the country. Why prioritize someone else’s military base? It’s not like we have surplus land.

  9. nice to have a congressman in the exchanges, di ba sabi ko tayo tayo lang naguusap.

    he has a blog by the way.

  10. Representative Biazon,

    The Reproductive Health Bill should be top-priority legislation this Congressional year. No doubt, overpopulation is aggravating the crises of high food and fuel costs. Will Congress stand up to CBCP?

    Is anybody listening??? The Philippines needed population control since decades ago.

    “Former President Fidel V. Ramos on Friday blamed President Arroyo’s flip-flopping population policy and “unwarranted subservience” to the Roman Catholic Church for the country’s swelling population and worsening poverty.”

    “Bowing to pressures from the Roman Catholic Church, Arroyo has removed funding for the government’s family planning program.”

  11. to cvj: how much will it cost??? Land is not free (nor fertilizer nor seed) how much will it cost the taxpayers to give one million hectares away to rural-poor and urban landless? I think leytenian repeately suggests to apply a few accounting principles. It will be great if this project is self-amortizing (in 20 or 25 years), but I believe that the taxpayers have to foot the bill.

    So whether or not OFW’s willing to pay income taxes or Filipinos-in-Pinas agreeing to pay additional VAT, it should be useful if you can provide budget-needed by national government for land/seed/fertilizer and to fund farming-skills re-education programs.

    I believe that not much hardball is needed when Pinas government plays hardball when negotiating the project to lease land to the US Air force and/or Navy in order for the project to provide additional dollars to the Philippine treasury. [Hint: Pilipinas government should insist that the US does not pay any bribes nor kickbacks.]

  12. did i read that correctly??

    Philippine Tongressmen have SIX, (6, sais) staffmembers???????????????????????????????

    Madre mio, overstaffed nga yan! Six??? Why? To do what?

    If I recall Senator Joker Arroyo has 1 staff. UK MPs have two or three. Well, Filipino congressmen may be working very hard indeed…or are helping provide jobs to our overpopulated country.


  13. In addition to farming-skills re-education programs, the national government also has to fund business-skills (how to market their produce, the ins and outs of dealing with banks or 5-6 lenders, what collateralization means). Too many anecdotes of landless-who-were-given-free-land becoming landless again in no time flat.

  14. nash: Six. There is the secretary, and two others who do the work. There is the supervisor over the 3 people, and a supervisor-over-the-supervisor. Six!!!! … helping provide jobs…

  15. psi, i know you are only quoting fvr (who himself has not done than anything significant about population control during his watch). are you aware of any legislation passed by either house ever to control the run-away growth of the population. why single out arroyo to blame? ramos should know better. ‘unwarranted subservience” to the church by arroyo, even if true, is irrelevant if there is no mandate and sufficient funding which only the legislature can provide.

  16. Nash said:

    “did i read that correctly??

    Philippine Tongressmen have SIX, (6, sais) staffmembers???????????????????????????????

    Madre mio, overstaffed nga yan! Six??? Why? To do what?

    If I recall Senator Joker Arroyo has 1 staff. UK MPs have two or three. Well, Filipino congressmen may be working very hard indeed…or are helping provide jobs to our overpopulated country.”

    Yup, you got it right. Six as in anim.

    Those six plantilla positions have a fixed salary grade as prescribed in the Congress plantilla positions. Those rates are taken from the Salary Standardization law.

    The breakdown is:

    1. Chief Political Affairs Officer – Usually the Chief of Staff of a COngressman’s office. Salary is around 20,000. Ideally, the Chief of Staff is also the COngressman’s lawyer. BUt at those rates, how many lawyers would accept the job?

    2. 2 Legislative Staff Officers – salary around 13,000 – 16,000. Senior research staff.

    3. Secretary- salary around 10,000-12,000

    4. Legislative Staff Assistant – messenger – salary around 7,000

    5. Driver – salary around 7,000

    You be the judge. With all the research that needs to be done, hearings, briefings, meetings to attend and all other official functions attendant to the office, tell me if we can do with less.

    Joker had 1 staff indeed in Congress. That’s because he had a law firm to do all the research for him. When people visited his office, either that 1 staff (who was his driver) was there to receive visitors or it was closed.

    UK MPs have 2 or 3 staff? Well, being a legislator myself, and knowing the demands of the job, i doubt it. If you can show me how they do it, then I’m more than willing to propose that to the House leadership.

    Again, I invite anyone who is wondering what congressmen do with those six staff to spend time and observe the daily work in a congressman’s office.


    Glad we have a member of Congress (Mr. Biazon) commenting in MLQ’s to air the side of the Legislature. Just as recently as two years or less ago, upon taking power, our party, the Conservative, true to the promise during the campaign that brought us back to power after 11 years in opposition due mainly to scandal of corruptions that besieged the defeated government, introduced the New Accountability Act to further strengthened the Governance and put the Trust of the voters and citizen back to its Leaders and Representatives… doings what they are supposed to do without Accountability just not good Enough…

    Conflict of Interest Act was amended and clearly Defined who is in conflict and what is in Conflict..

    Politicians can not become Lobbyists not after a five years cooling off period after leaving politics, instead of immediately as before.

    Establishment of the Office of Ombudsman for all Government Contracts and procurements, except the “spy agency” and the members of the house. Where all parties of interest can question and contest the process with the Ombudsman.

    And Most Importantly, Elimination of Contributions of Businesses and Unions in Election Financing…All election Expenses now will only come from individual contributions with Strict Limits. (Same limits for everyone, candidates and supporters), Now even a minimum wage earner can run for a Parliamentary Seat or even a Welfare Recipient and win.

    Now in the Philippines settings, the most that needed reform is the Electoral Process, maybe if we start from there, others will just follow…

  18. PSI said:

    “Representative Biazon,

    The Reproductive Health Bill should be top-priority legislation this Congressional year. No doubt, overpopulation is aggravating the crises of high food and fuel costs. Will Congress stand up to CBCP?

    Is anybody listening??? The Philippines needed population control since decades ago. ”

    I agree. It would interest you to know that the RH bill is now making progress in the House of Reps. Of course, the church backed resistance is also doubling its efforts. But don;t worry, there are those who recognize the significance of population in relation to reducing poverty.

  19. cvj said:

    “Congressman Biazon, i saw your name included among Gloria Arroyo’s US visit entourage. If true, i must say i’m very disappointed.”

    “Congressman Biazon, i did a further check and came across the PDI news item which reports that you (along with Rep. Diaz of Zambales & Rep. Mandanas of Batangas) just happened to be on a separate delegation in connection with the Veterans Equity Bill”

    It is correct that I was in Washington D.C. during GMA’s visit to the US this June. I was also there last May and April. What was I doing there? Working, of course. I, as vice chairman of the committee on Veterans Affairs in the House, together with our Chairman, COng. Antonio Diaz and Cong. Roman Romulo, grandson of the great Carlos P. Romulo, have been quietly working for the passage of the Veterans Equity Bill which will benefit the remaining thousands of Filipino WWII Veterans.

    It’s really unfortunate that I have been listed as a junketeer. It is more unfortunate that a disaster happened while we were there. But my conscience is clear that I wasn’t on a pleasure trip at the expense of the Filipino people. While we should pause to mourn the lost lives, there are also the living who expect us to work for them.

    To make it easier for me, allow me to just paste my response to a friend of mine who emailed me regarding the matter, because of his concern for me when he received from his LSGH email group the “junketeers” article with my name on the list:

    It is difficult to rationalize to those who are throwing around this criticism because it would take time and a lot of effort to explain and make them understand. But since I know you personally, I think I will just explain to you my own side of the story.

    I do not care much about the other personalities mentioned in the list. More so I am not an apologist for the GMA administration.

    My presence during that trip was part of my official duty as Vice Chairman of the COmmittee on Veterans Affairs which, in line with its mandate of working for the welfare of Filipino veterans, is working on a bill pending in the US Congress which if passed, will give benefits to Filipino World War II veterans.

    The Filipino veterans have been in a 62-year fight to claim the benefits they deserve from the United States. When the UNited States called on the Filipinos to join the fight against the Japanese, they did so without hesitation and unwittingly, as subjects of the US Commonwealth. They were promised benefits just as American soldiers were going to receive after the war.

    But what happened was that in 1946, after the Philippines declared its independence, the US Congress passed the Recission Act, which practically took back what they promised the FIlipino war fighters. Since then, our veterans have been clamoring for justice, to receive what was rightfully theirs in exchange for the service they gave in WWII.

    Up to this time, that claim is still in the air.

    Back in April of this year, the House COmmittee on Veterans Affairs, led by its Chairman COng. Antonio Diaz of Zambales, yours truly as Vice Chair and Cong. Roman Romulo of PAsig, one of the committee members, went to the United States to lobby in the US Senate for the passage of the bill which would restore the benefits to the veterans. We did so on the prompting of the FIlipino veterans, who saw this bill as their hope of getting back what the US owed them.

    For many years, this bill has never passed beyond committee level in both the US Senate and House. BUt for the first time, there was a chance since it passed the committee on Veterans in the US Senate.

    We went there to lobby, and lobby we did, going from one office to another, meeting with US Senators individually. We even met with the staff of those senators who could not meet with us. We spent whole days going around the offices in the US Senate, asking for support for the bill.

    Of course, we were not the only ones who were doing that. The FIl-AM groups based in the US have been doing it for decades but to no avail. But when the voting on the bill was done, which was a couple of days after we left after lobbying for a whole week, the US Senate voted for the bill, 96-1. We cannot claim sole responsibility but I believe that our person-person lobbying, as legislators to fellow legislators, contributed something.

    The next battleground was the US House of Representatives.

    The following month, May, we went back because we were told by the Philippine Embassy that the COngress will go on Memorial Day Recess by the end of the month and they saw it as an opportunity to work for the passage of the bill. Memorial Day in the US is the time they commemorate and remember those who fought in previous wars, and legislation for veterans are usually passed during that time to honor veterans.

    So that month, we went back to the UNited States to this time lobby in the US House of Representatives, in anticipation of a vote on the bill before the Memorial Day break. Just as we did in the US senate, we went from one office to another, speaking to congressmen or their senior staff to seek support.

    But the prospects weren’t as bright as it was in the Senate, since there were congressmen we were vehemently against the bill. Understandably since they did not have much FIlipino constituents in their districts, unlike the congressmen of States like California, Nevada, New Jersey and others which had significant FIlipino-American voters. Just like in the Philippines, the House of Representatives is more parochial than the Senate.

    After a week of lobbying morning till afternoon, we went back to the PHilippines. Memorial Day came and passed but the House did not vote on the bill.

    We were losing hope because if the bill wasn;t passed at this time, there will never be a chance again this year because of the US elections in November. Just like in the Philippines, everyone’s attention will be on the elections.

    We were afraid that the victory in the senate will go to waste.

    But when it was announced early in June that the President will visit the UNited States, we saw this as a last ditch opportunity to give the bill a final push.

    The committee decided to go on a parallel trip to take advantage of the presence of the president in Washington DC to convince the US legislators that the Philippines looks upon this bill as an important measure that will give justice to our aging, ailing and dying veterans.

    We arranged to meet with US legislators and since we were the ones who have been working on this on Capitol Hill, our extensive knowledge of the bill, the process, the players and the circumstances would be and advantage.

    As for me, I did not join the San Francisco and New York legs of the Presidential trip. I was only in the Washington DC leg for the sole purpose of the veterans bill. I definitely did not go to LAs Vegas to watch Manny Pacquiao. I wasn’t included in the dinners that went for hundreds of dollars per plate.

    As a congressman, I am entitled to travel allowance for a maximum of 5 days for a trip, amounting to 300 dollars a day inclusive of board, lodging, inland transportation and other incidental expenses. That is the maximum that I can be given. Beyond that, I would have to pay out of my own pocket. This allowance, if not used, ends up as savings for the House of Representatives. It cannot be used for other purposes since the law provides that funds may only be used for the purpose for which it was appropriated. And all of these are subject to liquidation.

    It can only be used for other purposes only if it is not used for the original purpose and ends up as savings at the end of the year. What some are insinuating that the travel allowance could have been used for the victims of the typhoon is simply not correct. We would have to wait until the end of the year to do that. YOu know what the saying about the grass and the dead horse says…

    The travel allowance is also not released to us by COngress unless it was for actual travel. If we don’t travel, we don’t get the allowance.

    I cannot speak for my other colleagues who were on that trip. But I resent the notion that I was on a junket because I know that I went there to work. And work I did, as can be attested by the veterans, the embassy staff and the FIl-Am community members there.

    Again, I know it will be difficult to explain that to those who have been harping on that trip the significance of my participation in that trip. But I think I owe it to you as my friend to explain why I was there.


  20. rego said:

    “Bravo to you congressman Biazon! I salute you for commenting in this blog.

    More please!!!!!”

    “They dont have to do this congressman. since you are already in this blog. You can just post a comment to correct seom misconception about how the government or the congress operates. You know if only you got the chance. You dont have to be present here everyday. But please do take some of your time to read the comments here from time to time.

    At please iwasan mapikon sa mga makukulit na commenter dito. Just explain it objectively”

    Thanks, rego! I’m a blogger myself and read not just this blog but all the other very relevant blogs in cyberspace. Daily. THis is one way I keep my ears on the ground, by listening to what people say. Once in a while I post my comments, especially when I believe I can contribute to a truthful discussion.

    Don’t worry, hindi ako mapipikon. I always maintain objectivity. If you want to see how I handle myself during heated discussions in the blogs, visit ellen tordesillas’ blogsite. I interacted with people there during the 2nd impeachment discussions.

  21. The Annual Budget is just a Budget. Looking at Senate and Congress… who cares with those numbers…. Department of Budget must BREAKDOWN EXPENSES from barangays all the way to the top.

    If you do not know how the budget is prepared, I suggest you refrain from making comments that reflect your clueless ness.

    there will be no annual budget if there were no budgets prepared from the lowest level of the government organization. The budget is not prepared for each department; the department submits its own budget.

    The guidelines are provided in the preparation and the latest budget and actual expenses are used as a basis for projection.

    Government operates on a fiscal year which means it starts July of the preceding year and ends June of the following year. so I am surprised that there are already numbers for the year 2007 when the fact is the fiscal year 2007-2008 has just ended last June 30.

    Even with the year ending, it takes months to close the book to come up with the accurate and final figures because there are several accounts that need to be adjusted and closed like advances, accruals and receivables.

    The question on why not use the unappropriated is silly. because in the government budget, before an expense is incurred and then reimbursed, it has to be appropriated first.

    Huge amounts in Advances accounts by some agencies are not necessarily a case of corruption. Documents supporting the transactions may not have reached the disbursing agency on time for closing.

    The lower actual expenditures by an agency may not necessarily indicate a failure of the national government to reimburse the expenses or to release the funds that have been earmarked for that particular project.

    Sometimes, it s the expending agency which is unable to make the necessary charges to get what is due them.

    but hell, why am I explaining when nobody cares because not many can understand the intricacies of preparing all these “worthless” numbers.

    when congressman biazon said that only six personnel are allowed for each congressman’s office, it does not necessarily mean that the congressman should hire six. it is only what is allowed in the plantilla. it means the budget provides only for the salaries of six.

    So the congressman may hire one or two or even the maximum of six.

    For some congressmen, they might have used the office as employment agency for their relatives and supporters but for some they might have used their staff to research for the bills that they are going to sponsor or author.

  22. to the Ca t: Are you knowledgeable in this question?

    If a local government unit believes that it is owed more money from the National Government, is their only available option to seek the intercession of their local congressman? Can an LGU sue the national government on its own? What are the steps/procedures that the LGU should follow?

  23. Congressman Biazon, thanks for your clarification. I too do not care for the other Congressmen who went to the junket since i know enough not to expect much from them. But in your case, my disappointment in seeing your name on the list is because i do not expect you to be at the same level as your colleagues. Here’s the list where i saw your name as posted by one of the commenter’s in Ellen’s blog. You might want to clarify matters over there as well:

  24. In bad times (such as in the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis; in 2003-04 when GOP was trying to balance the budget by 2009) savings, say 10% of budget, is mandated by the President. Department and agencies would have to economize like cutting on travels abroad, delaying hiring of consultants and contractual employees, energy conservation, etc.

    However, in good times, there is not much incentive for an agency to cut costs and attain savings, because such would just revert back to the National Treasury. Department executives even worry that the next year’s budget will be cut; so the tendency is to exhaust this year’s alloted budget and spend it all.

  25. UPn (at 9:08 pm), the arrangement could be similar to that given to SMC-Kuok where the government still retains ownership of the land while rural poor/urban poor are assigned a 1500 square meters per family of four to grow their own food for them to eat (and surplus to sell). Costs would involve seeds, irrigation, fertilizer, tools, carabao etc. However, this could be offset by the value of the food grown and the dollars saved from not having to import as much rice. Very rough computations below on the assumption that an adult needs 20 kilos of rice a month and rice output is at 3.2 metric tons per hectare:

    palay requirement per family of four: 960 kilos per year

    rice output per hectare : 3200 kilos of palay
    number of harvest per year: 2 harvests per year (3rd season can be for planting vegetables)
    rice output per hectare per year: 6400 kilos of palay

    number of families (4 people) per hectare: 6.7 families
    allocated number of hectares per family of four: 0.15 hectares
    allocated number of square meters per family of four: 1500 square meters

    number of families for 1 million hectares: 6,666,667 families
    number of people for 1 million hectares: 26,666,667 people

    Wouldn’t meeting the food needs of more than one quarter the population be a bigger benefit than the revenue obtained from leasing land to SMC-Kuok or the US Military?

  26. Representative Biazon
    I always get this urge to hang myself every time I need something from a government office. One has to go through line A in order to receive forms, in order to go to line B so somebody can staple the forms. Line C is for somebody to circle all the capital letters, until you can make your way to line Z who has the ONLY guy trained and qualified enough to receive cash before they CLOSE shop for lunch. This retarded and inefficient “System” to government services forces the need for fixers and bribes. When business owners have to take bribe money into account with business plans, something must be wrong. Would the formation of a “Department of Efficiency and Common Sense” be in order?
    Does the Congress recognize this as a problem, and if so how are you going about with a solution?

  27. Dear Congressman Biazon,

    Why do congressmen need drivers? The Mayor of London who presides over a budget of £Billions takes public transport, so do the generally cabinet of higher government. Former Cabinet Secretary Blunkett had a driver, but then again he is blind.

    In any case, P7000 a month seems very low for a driver.

    Thank you for taking time out to comment. Accountability and transparency is key and this is a step in the right direction.


  28. cvj: Your calculations of a business model — a food-factory to feed over 20-million citizens —– sure makes sense.

    And the answer to your question:

    number of people for 1 million hectares: 26,666,667 people

    Wouldn’t meeting the food needs of more than . . . . . be a bigger benefit than the revenue obtained from leasing land to SMC-Kuok

    SMC-Kuok says good-business-sense!!!! To them, the lease-payments and other costs for a million-hectare food factory in Pinas is less compared to benefits of feeding over 20-million Chinese.


    SMC-Kuok is willing to pay.

    On the other hand, Malacanang is telling its urban-homeless…. anak, hindi ko kayang iregalo sa iyo iyan (free land, plus fertilizer and seed), wala tayong pera!!!!!


    So an option is Pinas to sit down with US Air Force about lease of 2 or 3 parcels of land that will total the size of Bataan— 135,000 hectares.

    Kick out Kuok. Pinas gets dollar-denominated yearly payments for leasing 135,000 hectares. Transform about 70% of the 50-year lease payments into one lump-sum for greater golpe-de-gulat. (Now, I still say use the money for thousands of typhoon-proof school buildings and salaries for principals and teachers.) Then use the lump-sum money for land-plus-fertilizer/seed plus farming- and business-skils training for urban-landless (800,000 hectares will feed over 15million pinoys if your estimation is right) (and the remaining 30% for “maintenance charges”).

    Sitting down with those sum-of-bitch White Devils 😉 can actually be ….. for the greater good of Filipino citizens. That is my opinion.

    hvrds or leytenian or the Ca t can provide alternative ways of working with 50-year lease payments to obtain the maximum use to generate …the greater good. Just remind them it is for the greater good of the citizens, not the greater good of Malacanang lest they get tempted by 👿

  29. UPn (at 1:08 am), the important thing is to adhere to the victory garden concept so it is important that the household is responsible for what they plan in their allocated 1500 square meters of land. What it should not be is a corporate plantation and neither should it be a collective farm. In that way, you get 1.6 million self-reliant families, not 1.6 million laborers. In Vietnam when they implemented a similar concept, what was left to the collective is the maintenance of irrigation facilities.

    It baffles me why you want to lease land the size of Bataan for a US Airbase. We need every piece of real estate for our use, if not for growing food, for growing biofuels, for wind farms, solar farms, forests reserves (as carbon offset areas as well as to build watersheds). Don’t think of the rent. Think of the opportunity costs of not being able to use 135,000 hectares of land for these alternative uses.

  30. and we can make supremo happy, too… by making sure one of those USA-bases be in Mindanao-land coveted by the MILF bangsamoro guys. Lock up the lease really tight where even if Christians are kicked out of bangsamoro, that the US cannot be forced to leave. The lease should be really tight so the paperwork stands up to the same international courts that has reviewed legality of USA-guantanamo base on cuban soil.

  31. now cvj… i don’t know if you know this already, but you should and it should not baffle you. There are a few cases where you and I disagree. Like I just have a hard time volunteering other people’s money. I also do not tell KG, mlq3 or even Cory Aquino that they have an obligation to surrender land they own, or for blackshama to pay more in taxes all by his lonesome.

    You have many proposals…. when you can identify how Pinas can afford what you propose and when Pinas congress and/or Malacanang says “done… we go do!!!”…..hey… then Pinas should go do what you propose!!

    When Pinas can afford to give one million hectares free land to urban landlless, more power since it moves a number of the squatters out of metro-Manila area.

  32. cvj: when a country (in order to generate enough tax- and other revenue-collectio for itself) is willing to lease one million hectares to grow food, then export food … i think that country (or least one of its blogsites) can take a few minutes listening to an idea about leasing 1/5 of one-million, then using the remaining 4/5 to grow food to feed itself.

    cvj: SMC-Kuok is being listened to because they have an answer to… but how does this project get funded?????

    Fantastic good ideas are a penny a dozen…. really. Getting answer to How do we make it work? is where many ideas die. But you know this already.

  33. now just so I have not made a mistake. I have the impression that you, cvj, have not… but have you identified where the pesos will come to buy the land to give to the landless?

  34. It baffles me why you want to lease land the size of Bataan for a US Airbase.

    Do I really need to review my writing skills? The answer is so Pinas has money to buy land-plus-seed-plus-fertilizer to give away. Pinas gets dollar-denominated yearly payments for leasing 135,000 hectares. Transform about 70% of the 50-year lease payments into one lump-sum for greater golpe-de-gulat.

  35. “It’s really about time every Filipino cares about the government who is supposed to serve the people.” Ruffy Biazon.

    i join the other commenters in this blog in expressing thanks for your participation in this exchange of ideas. i, for one, appreciates your effort in behalf of the dwindling filipino war veterans and their families. here’s hoping that they will get the benefits they richly deserve.

    i can understands the need to maintain a healthy balance between the staffing needs of public officers and the need to conserve the nation’s fiscal resources. six staff members multiplied by several hundreds of congressmen and senators is substantial. how about the staff of the executive, judicial, and lgu officials from the lowest bureaucrat, municipal judge, or barangay captain all the way up the the sc chief justice and chief executive? little wonder that the government is unquestionably the biggest employer in the nation and where most college graduates are flocking for “stable” jobs if they could not emigrate or work abroad.

    i can think of two possible solutions (other commenters are welcome to add, expound, expand, criticize, or shoot-down with reason):

    1. many filipino expats, ofws, ocws, who left the country in the late 60s, 70s and early 80s are either retired, or about to retire (mostly with their mental and physical faculties intact), with sufficient pensions to assure an independent, comfortable life, and skills/experience, ideas and insights acquired in their adopted home countries. many, if not most, of these retirees are pining to go back to their homeland as dual citizens or permanent residents and spend their remaining years helping their country any which way they can. i think these retirees would love to VOLUNTEER their services to the government for little or no compensation other than reimbursement of their out-of-pocket expenses. i suggest the establishment of a pool of volunteers with their individual qualifications and interests that can be utilized in any particular branch of public service. under the law of averages, i theorize that these people will be less likely to be corrupt, having proven their integrity by having retired without getting into trouble in their host countries, and given the fact that they are financially situated in such a way that they don’t have to hustle for livelihood by hook or by crook.

    2. it’s time there should be a thorough re-examination of the ways we do things in the government. for a start, let’s do away with too much regulation that breeds corruption, not to mention waste of energy and resources, e.g., ptt’s lament @ 12:06 am. in addition, the civil service law must be amended to provide one-strike-and-you’re-out mandate with no exception.

  36. UPn, if the Philippine government can allocate one million hectares for free to a corporation like SMC-Kuok, they can certainly do the same to 26 million Filipinos rural (and/or urban) poor. At an estimated 1,000 USD (45K pesos) cost of production per hectare per planting season, that would make 2Billion dollars or 90 Billion pesos per year which, if you compare with the Philippine Budget figures above, is well within the realm of the possible especially if we reduce debt service payments. That translates to 3,400 yearly subsidy per person or less than 300 pesos per month. Isn’t that an worthwhile price to pay to stave off hunger for 26 million Filipinos?

    As to your suggestion of leasing land the size of Bataan to a US airbase, there are other ways to get foreign exchange without sacrificing valuable land. For example, we use the land to plant jatropha for biofuel. Assuming 3000 liters per hectare, that would make 405 million liters of biodiesel to replace our diesel imports saving foreign exchange which we can then use to import fertilizers/pesticides. Preferably though, the government should target eventual 100% local production for fertilizer.

  37. If a local government unit believes that it is owed more money from the National Government, is their only available option to seek the intercession of their local congressman? Can an LGU sue the national government on its own? What are the steps/procedures that the LGU should follow?

    If i am going to respond to this, i better lecture on appropriations, obligations , remibursements, allocation of IRA, what expenses are allowed to be charged to the special projects funded by the IRA etc. etc.

    Which I am not going to do.

    It is not unusual that the national government owes LGU. The lGU spends first and charged the receivable from the national treasury,

    As to the collection, it takes some time.

  38. the cat,
    “If you do not know how the budget is prepared, I suggest you refrain from making comments that reflect your clueless ness.”

    i don’t think i am clueless..I don’t prepare budget because I hire people to do my budget. I am a manager. I am responsible for the day to day operation especially budget and manage every aspect of my own business. I understand where you coming from. I look on numbers everyday. Anybody who present to me with a proposed budget, they must breakdown expenses with vendors, contractor and actual price associated with it, etc… Who ever can save me money will be rewarded.

    with the rest of your comments, all make sense with very good points in your part. of course you know your stuff but I suggest you don’t underestimate people. Your success is not only measured by what you know… It’s really how you interact with people. At least in this particular discussion. i would also suggest that your expertise in this area can be shared if you really wanna help or donate some of your skills to Philippines. But of course you have your time. Up N is asking you a good question, it would be nice if you can share… No offense.

  39. the cat:

    “The question on why not use the unappropriated is silly. because in the government budget, before an expense is incurred and then reimbursed, it has to be appropriated first.”
    Huge amounts in Advances accounts by some agencies are not necessarily a case of corruption. Documents supporting the transactions may not have reached the disbursing agency on time for closing.”

    you have a point but the result is not what everybody expect…
    my point is in every budget… there’s always discrepancies in numbers because of corruption. Philippines now is considered the most corrupt country in Asia… you know better than that.

  40. to congressman biazon..

    thank you very much for breaking down salary expenses in your office. If our government hires more clerical and office personnel .. so be it. it is still employment.

    i would love to see department of education to breakdown its expenses ( not only labor) , all the funds forwarded to every school in the Philippines…
    or allow the the head of every school to propose its own budget. Funded or not funded, the head of the school can at least represent and able to get involve directly. The head of the school is the source of ideas and opinions from its staff, students and parents.

    The propose budget can be forwarded to the local city ( mayor) , and the congressman will consolidate all the cities budget. Present it to the senator responsible for that region for final approval from the executives.

    baliktad sa atin… may budget na pero hindi naman nakakarating sa lahat. every school is unique. some schools don’t have bathrooms , lack of books and the blue sky is the roof.

  41. to the Ca t: You sounded like you know the answer, so let me ask again. What are the steps/procedures that the LGU should follow if the LGU believes that the national government has not provided the complete funds?

  42. we have a great website from the department of education. it discloses the names of the head of the schools…
    check this link…

    sa view info link… sana diyan makita ang request or propose budget nila.

    mas magaan ang trabaho sa taas kung pakinggan muna ang nasa baba. maka save pa nang pera at the same time corruption will be minimized.

  43. with my propose system of governance in the department of education, i can guarantee that any OFW will directly donate money according to what is needed in a particular school.

    for example: Grace park ES , head of school. Corazon Gonzales… Maam Corazon will then upload thru the website ( on view info) it’s school needs with actual price.

    Here are our proposed budget and needs for 2008 (Breakdown)
    1. books- 500,000 pesos
    2. chairs- 300,000
    3. 8 kubetas ( 3 or girls and 3 for boys, and 2 for staff) 500,000 pesos

    pag nakita nang mga mayayaman at mga masipag na OFW lalo na kung nag graduate sila diyan… naku… they will donate. the government has save money. it can then increase salary teachers and hire more teachers.

    trust me.. if this suggestion is followed our school system will be very high end . the donators will become the role model of the students. I myself will donate right away. ako pa ang bibili para sigurado… hahahah

  44. to CVJ : Now I see why we were having difficulty. I see a problem where you don’t. I think Pinas has not given away free land because Pinas does not have enough money to buy from current landowners the land, then give the land (plus fertilizer and seed) to urban squatters/rural poor. While you seem to suggest that Pinas can give away one million hectares for free. I see a problem — Pinas national government does not have enough money — where you don’t.

  45. the local government may claim that the government keeps on delaying the release of funds,but they cannot sue the governemnt.

    every local government has its own procurement program;it is up to them to find out ways to finance themselves;pero madalas utang .

    the congress indeed has the power of the purse,pero we know the drill on releasing funds; dbm neda , dpwh etc.

    for claims of delay in releasing ira:

    for lgu lending:

  46. thanks, Karl for the links.

    I am led to the conclusion that the situation — seriously-delayed payments to some LGU’s — is exactly what Pinas wants for itself, or at least that the issue is not important enough. Otherwise, Congress would have passed a law already asit has for those newer laws that had been fast-tracked.

    Ayaw niyong lutasin… eh di ganiyan iyan next year and the year after.

  47. Nash said:

    “Dear Congressman Biazon,

    Why do congressmen need drivers? The Mayor of London who presides over a budget of £Billions takes public transport, so do the generally cabinet of higher government. Former Cabinet Secretary Blunkett had a driver, but then again he is blind.

    In any case, P7000 a month seems very low for a driver.”

    Why do we need drivers? More productivity, of course. You may not agree, but let me give you the real score…

    A congressman’s job is not just limited to attending sessions which many people think so. There are committee hearings that are held outside Batasan (such as bicameral meetings with the Senate), meetings with different government agencies located in various locations around metro manila, speaking engagements, etc. All in one day.

    A congressman driving himself would have to deal with finding a parking space at his destination, which is difficult nowadays. The time consumed for such activities is time taken off from time that could be productive. While driving, the congressman has to concentrate on piloting his vehicle, but if he has a driver, he can use the time riding as a passenger to read materials pertaining to his meeting.

    I drove myself before, but I felt that the time wasted with me at the wheel and looking for a parking space was time that could be made productive if I had a driver. Anyway, I had a budget for that. Yes, 7,000 is a bit low for a driver. But that is what is prescribed in the salary grad scale. It is not my decision to give him that salary. It is prescribed.

    BUt even with a driver, when my schedule becomes so tight and is aggravated by the traffic, I get off my vehicle to ride public transport, particularly the MRT. There was one time that I was on the way from my district, Muntinlupa City, to a television interview in Quezon City and I got delayed by traffic on South Superhighway and Edsa. I got off in Makati and rode the MRT but was still late. So I did half of the interview via phone patch while I was on the MRT and did the other half in the studio when I got there.

    There are many congresspersons who are not in the image that is usually in the minds of people. Times have changed. There are many congresspersons who are down to earth, drive themselves, don’t use SUVs, don’t have bodyguards, etc.

    All we need to do is take time to get them personally rather than just confine ourselves to stereotypes.

  48. “pag nakita nang mga mayayaman at mga masipag na OFW lalo na kung nag graduate sila diyan… naku… they will donate. the government has save money. it can then increase salary teachers and hire more teachers.”

    what a joke

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