Senate on Wednesday approved its version of the P3.77-trillion 2018 budget, which slashes P1.4 billion worth of funds from anti-illegal drug projects involving police and the Interior department.
With the Philippine National Police (PNP) removed from the war on drugs, Senate increased the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s budget and reallocated funds meant for police anti-illegal drug operations.
“We cut the double barrel and Masa Masid of the PNP and DILG while PDEA’s budget increased by P1.213 billion,” a statement quoting bill sponsor and Senate Committee on Finance Chairperson Loren Legarda said.
President Rodrigo Duterte in October decided to shift operations for the war on drugs from the PNP to PDEA. This was amid allegations of police abuse, human rights violations, and public outrage over the deaths in August of three teenagers allegedly killed by police.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) also scrapped in October plans to use drop boxes for drug and crime reporting in barangays, which it planned under its Masa Masid program.
PNP’s Oplan Double Barrel had a proposed budget of P900 million. Meanwhile, the budget for Masa-Masid, the DILG’s community-based anti-crime, corruption, and illegal drugs program was slated to receive P500 million.
A press release from Legarda’s office said P1.35 billion of the total P1.4 billion from these two projects will be transferred to the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Housing program instead. The remaining 50 million will be for the acquisition of body cameras for police officers.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who had moved to realign the budget said in a statement she was “grateful” that Senate heeded her motion.
“This sends a clear signal to the Executive that human rights violations and constitutionally-infirm state policies will not be financed. This monster will not be fed. This will, thankfully, be a Tokhang-Free Budget,” she said.
Bigger budget for PNP, AFP
The PNP however still stands to gain a bigger budget this 2018.
Under Senate’s 2018 budget, PNP will get P131.628 billion in 2018. This is P20 billion more than its P111.6 billion budget this 2017.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines will also benefit from increased funds. As the military seeks to modernize itself, Senate gave the AFP a P141.860 billion.
In light of the Marawi Crisis, Senate also increased intelligence funds for AFP and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).
To help prevent the emergence of similar threats in the future, military intelligence funds were increased to P137.312 million. NICA was also given an additional P100 million.
Meanwhile to help Marawi’s recovery, Senate made available a P10 billion-worth fund under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) to aid rehabilitation efforts in the war-torn city.
Last Friday, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra said it may take P90 billion to create a “better” Marawi City– nearly double the P50 billion initially pledged by the government.
Education, Infrastructure get highest budgets
The education and infrastructure sectors got the biggest chunks in the 2018 Senate budget.
The government offices in the education sector were given a total of P684.33 billion by the Senate– the highest allocation in the budget.
According to a Senate press release, this was broken down into P561.58 billion for the Education Department and attached agencies, P62.33 billion for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), and P60.42 billion for the Commission on Higher Education.
P51 billion will be set aside for free college education in SUCs and state-run educational institutions after Congress signed in August a law providing free education for students in public tertiary and vocational schools nationwide.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) came second to the education sector. It was given a budget of P598.57 billion.
This comes as the government places infrastructure and development of industries as one of the Duterte administration’s top priorities.
The administration’s infrastructure program, “Build build build,” forecasts a spending of up to 9 trillion pesos by 2022.
According to the press release, the DPWH budget is meant “to spur infrastructure spending and herald the so-called Golden Age of Infrastructure.”
The Health Department and other affiliated offices, meanwhile, received more than P174.4 billion for its operations. This will include P3 billion to fund universal health coverage.
Other departments that received sizable budgets were the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) which received P170.24 billion, and the Department of National Defense, which received P147.85 billion.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development was given P139.27 billion by Senate.
This includes an additional P3 billion to build and repair DSWD centers nationwide and provide “respectable shelter” for poor Filipinos.
The General Appropriations Act will still go through the Bicameral Conference Committee on Thursday. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said lawmakers will be able to pass the national budget by December 19.
The approved P3.77 trillion 2018 budget is higher by 12 percent from the 2017 budget.
Senate has elected Legarda to chair the Bicameral Conference Committee. She will be joined by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Panfilo Lacson, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri as members.
CNN Philippines’ Senior Correspondent Cecille Lardizabal and Amanda Lingao contributed to this report.
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