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Approved without thinking: P26.7-B ‘mysterious ayuda’

Another last-minute insertion in the 2024 national budget has been bared. The P26.7 billion was slipped in by the bicameral conference committee. Senators and representatives then ratified the bicam report. They are all thus answerable to the people for that hanky-panky.

Sen. Imee Marcos blamed her cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez for the “magic.” Supposedly the latter concocted the P26.7-billion Ayuda sa Kapos sa Kita Program. AKAP was not in Malacañang’s proposed allotments for the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The bicam slid AKAP into this year’s General Appropriations Act, Marcos fumed. From it purportedly came bribes to penurious, ignorant signatories of the people’s initiative to abolish the Senate.

Marcos said AKAP was not among DSWD’s “ayuda” (doles) that she sponsored in the Senate’s budget hearings. She linked it to the P12 billion that the bicam “mysteriously” gave the Comelec, which never sought allotment for any unplanned plebiscite on the PI.

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa growled that the constitutional budgeting process has been reversed: “Why is Congress the one proposing funds instead of DSWD seeking Congress allocation for projects?” Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said he doesn’t remember AKAP tabled during Senate budget deliberations.

Pooh-poohing Marcos’ “exposé,” congressmen said she signed the bicam report that contained the P26.7-billion AKAP. Marcos contended that she affixed her digital signature since nothing transpired in the bicam except photo ops.

“Ayun nga, dahil House insertion ‘yun, talagang hindi namin alam kung ano ‘yung mga nilalaman non,” Marcos claimed. “Kasi kinukuha ‘yung aming mga e-signature tapos sila na lang ang naglalapat sa final version na hindi kami dapat makialam daw sa mga House insertion. Hindi ko naman alam kung anu-anong insertion, e nagtitiwala kami na wala namang kalokohan.”

Aprub without thinking, as Filipinos quip. Legislators ratified the bicam report as is, with P26.7-billion AKAP and P12-billion plebiscite budget that Comelec never sought.

But wait. Isn’t it the duty of legislators to scrutinize national budgets from start to finish? Don’t they owe it to the Filipino people who pay their