Published in Manila Standard Today on 31 March 2012
By Elizabeth Angsioco
How much of the people’s money have been spent so far for the impeachment trial? Who are most adversely affected because of this exercise?
Based on the 2012 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the House of Representatives (HOR) has a budget of P5,842,073,000.The Senate, on the other hand, was granted P2,853,289.000. These amounts include all moneys intended for Congress’ use including the controversial ‘pork’.
Congress’ publicly available budget information does not give as much detail as I would have wanted but we can estimate how much is allocated for both Houses to operate.
Since legislation is Congress’ primary function, ultimately, the magic figure we look for is how much Juan and Juana spend per session day of the HOR and Senate. The number of session days is available and thus, the cost per session day can be approximated.
For 2012, the HOR has a budget of about P61,495,505.26 per session day while the Senate’s is P30,034,621.05. Therefore, the Filipino people spend something like P91,530,126.31 per day for Congress to do its job.
The impeachment trial has so far used 34 session days. Thus, Juan and Juana have already spent around P3,112,024,294.54 for this. Definitely, P3.1 BILLION is HUGE!
Using this money, how many hospitals and schools could have been built? How many scholars could have graduated? How many homeless families could have benefited if used for low-cost housing? How many mothers’ lives could have been saved if money was spent to address pregnancy and childbirth complications?
Reports say that the HOR only spent P3.5 million for the trial. Misleading, I say. Perhaps, such is its budget for the trial itself but everyone knows that the impeachment’s effects on the HOR is worth much more in money terms.
Since the trial began, the HOR hardly had a quorum. There was a time when it seemed that it was going to have its session at the Senate because of the presence of so many Representatives attending the trial.
A quorum was only achieved when the leadership asked members to come and this was for the impeachment complaint against another Supreme Court Justice. Indeed, the HOR has been bitten by the impeachment bug for which its budget for sessions were wasted.
I cannot complain against the Senate. Since it acted as the impeachment court, the Senators have been hard at work. The Senate is commendable because unlike the HOR, it worked extra days and held sessions in the mornings to process bills.
It is thus understandable if Senate expenses even shot up.
That Congress’ legislative work has been significantly sacrificed because of the trial is unquestionable. Lack of quorum at the HOR prevented it from tackling important bills. Too much work at the Senate severely limited its time for legislation.
The reproductive health bill, the most urgent of all pending bills remains in limbo because of the trial.
Such urgency was correctly pointed out by pro-RH Rep. Kimi Cojuangco during her “Death March” privilege speech,
“…it is downright barbaric to trivialize and pretend that there are no abortions due to unwanted pregnancies…It is ignorant to say that taking contraceptives leads to more abortions and immorality when this will prevent unwanted pregnancies, the reason women undergo abortions… It is almost criminal to not help families in deciding the number of children they want and can responsibly support. Without our help, more children will go to bed hungry at night.”
Rep. Cojuangco continued:
“…isn’t it insensitive that we, the rich… can just walk into a drugstore and freely purchase the family planning method of our choice while the poor do not have the same choice? Our society is sick and in desperate need of a cure.”
The cure lies in the hands of government. Not just Congress but also the Executive headed by the President who promised that the RH bill is a priority. Unfortunately, now he seems more interested in convicting the Chief Justice.
It’s been 75 days since the impeachment trial begun and about 825 maternal deaths have occurred because government continues to deprioritize mothers’ lives.
PhP3.1 billion and more than 800 mothers dead. Aren’t these enough price for the impeachment trial? People want justice, women cry out for the same.
email@example.com and @bethangsioco on Twitter