POLITICAL analysts and lawmakers on Tuesday challenged the government to show some teeth and take specific actions to protect the public from corruption.
“The government must show some teeth and specific interventions on how it plans to rid the system and bureaucracy of corruption,” said Dindo Manhit, managing director of Stratbase Research Institute.
Manhit said the next challenge for the Duterte administration is how to fund the “ambitious budget” without imposing new taxes.
Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, warned that the general outline of the national budget did not say how it would meet the government’s targets.
“There is nothing new, nothing concrete in assuring how the targets can be met and how the usual shortfall can be remedied,” Casiple told the Manila Standard. “Projection is a projection.”
He said if the government was really serious in eliminating corruption, it should start from top government collection agencies such as the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
“Every President makes a vow to rid the country of corruption. But at the end of their term, it’s still a shortfall,” he said.
Casiple said the rampant smuggling in the Bureau of Customs remains unabated.
“Has the Customs found the missing 2,000 container vans that mysteriously disappeared in the previous administration? The story simply died down,” Casiple said.
Casiple also said the government can only show good governance if it is able to pursue tax evaders.
But both political analysts said it was a good indicator that the government is now spending on infrastructure to pump prime the economy considering that underspending in the previous administration resulted in the country lagging behind its neighbors.
“The greater challenge now is if the government is spending the national budget properly and ensuring good governance. Imposing new taxes seems not a proof of good governance when you propose a huge budget and source the funds from new taxes,” Manhit said.
As the Department of Budget and Management was preparing the breakdown of the P3.84-trillion national budget, House Assistant Majority Leader Salvador Belaro Jr. of the 1-Ang Edukasyon party-list, urged the education agencies to propose adequate funding for free college education in state universities and colleges.
“Free college education in SUCs should also include miscellaneous fees and other fees, not just tuition,” said Belaro, who got hold of a copy of the DBM’s National Budget Memorandum 128.
The lawmaker said the education agencies should factor in the resurgence of college freshman enrollment in June to August next year because by that time, the first batch of senior high school graduates will move on to college.
Manhit said the perception of corruption in government has shown the government’s weakness in proving its political will to rid the government agencies of corruption.
Casiple, for his part, said the government should watch the stock market, the foreign direct investments and the BPO sector vis-à-vis the influx of the dollar reserves.
The government based its macroeconomic assumptions on the exchange rate of P48 to P50 to a dollar.
Casiple said the government should also watch the influx, if there is any, of investments from China following the Western countries’ disapproval of how the government is handling its anti-illegal drug campaign.
“Is the government ready to repel the pressure from the West like Europe and US and accommodate the entry of China?” Casiple said.