The real issue in the Senate MOOE

Today, the issue has segued into Gigi Reyes – an altogether different issue and which is irrelevant to the concern of the “cash gifts”. I hope Filipinos are not redirected out of the issue.

What is the issue? Listening to Senator Enrile’s accounting of the Senate MOOE (third video in the playlist), the issue is, for me, the fact that with the millions of taxpayers’ money spent on every possible expenses by the senators (security detail, office rent, personnel, representation such as per diem during meetings, etc.) incurred by the Senators (in the past year and previous ones), have the lives of Filipinos now improved as a result or outcome of this spending?

Redistribution by Senator Enrile of savings from this MOOE is not, for me, the issue; it’s savings after all and the intention is that the recipients, in their official capacities as Senators and members of Congress, will use the amount for further improvement of the Provinces and Municipalities/Cities they represent. Fine. If there is an issue in the redistribution, it has to do with the externalities it created, as for example the discrepancy of the amounts redistributed which becomes a glaring gap especially to the Senators whom Senator Enrile is known to be not on friendly terms with. Well, they can take comfort perhaps in the fact that equality doesn’t necessarily mean equal.

Back to the real issue, these talks about the Senate MOOE made me recall a study I made for an organization which involved looking into the MOOE in public schools. I was shocked and angered as a citizen to know that for a given school year, the average public school receives under PHP5,000 (USD100) for its maintenance, etc. In addition, the amount is “downloaded” to the school months after the date it was supposed to receive it. When it does receive the amount, it goes right to paying back the debt the school incurred. There are schools in rural areas that had their electricity connection cut off by the local cooperative because of unpaid debts; when the schools receive a mere PHP1,000 for the quarter, what do you expect? And society continues to demand quality education from these schools.

This continuing situation in public schools against the millions being spent as Senate MOOE – on what? endless cups of premium coffee for Senators who come off to the public as instigating unnecessary fights against each other throughout the year – is scandalously undemocratic. This drives home the inequality issue between the top and the bottom – but when has education relegated to the bottom?

Also, this uproar about the Senate MOOE against the rush by civil society groups to have the Freedom of Information Bill passed into law presents an unexpected challenge to these groups – what will they do with the information which are being made available to them without much effort on their part to access it?

Senator Cayetano in the news said the recommendation for an independent COA audit on the Senate MOOE would have to be deliberated first if it is legal. Is this country a democracy? Then probe, it can even be led by citizens, into the matter of taxpayers money spending is perfectly legal.

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