Escudero: DILG budget won't help Roxas' 2016 'bid'

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Escudero on Thursday, November 27, defended Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II from allegations that he would use his department’s 2015 budget to boost a possible presidential bid in 2016.

Escudero, as the chairman of the Senate Finance committee, sponsored the proposed 2015 budget of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) during the Senate deliberations on the proposed 2015 budget.

Referring to the P1.244 billion-housing program under the informal settlers families (ISF) fund of the proposed DILG budget which is being questioned by some senators, Escudero said politicians eyeing higher office would not want to antagonize the  sector by forcing them out of their current homes.

Kung tatakbo ka, gusto mo bang ikaw ang magpapaalis sa mga informal settlers? Di ba bawas boto 'yun imbes na dagdag boto? Kung ako nga sa kanya (Roxas) bibitawan ko 'yan kung talagang eleksyon lang ang habol ko,” Escudero told reportersat the Kapihan sa Senado on Thursday, November 27. 

(If you were running, would you want to be the one relocating informal settlers? Wouldn't that reduce, and not increase, your votes? If I were him, I’d let go of that role if I’m only really after the elections.)

Roxas is the president-on-leave of the ruling Liberal Party and is viewed by many, including his party mates, as their standard-bearer for the 2016 polls. But the DILG chief has remained coy about his 2016 plans.

Escudero added: “Hindi ako naniniwalang pang-eleksyon yung ISF  fund ng DILG. Biruin mo aalisin mo siya sa kanyang tinitirikan ngayon, e ilang taon na siya diyan. Gusto mo ba pulitikong tatakbo ang gagawa niyan? Hindi yata consistent 'yun ang mga nag-aambisyon o may balak tumakbo.” 

(I don’t think the DILG’s ISF fund is for the elections. Imagine, you’re making them leave their home for years. Would a prospective candidate want to do that? I don’t think it’s consistent with someone who wants to run.)

The ISF relocation is a multi-agency project spearheaded by the DILG upon President Benigno Aquino III’s orders. Critics, though, insist other agencies such as the National Housing Authority should be the lead in the program.

The NHA is chaired by Vice President Jejomar Binay, the only one so far to announce his bid for the presidency in 2016, in his capacity as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).

Escudero said he was willing to move the housing component of the ISF project from the DILG to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) but “nobody proposed the amendment.”

Prior to interpellations on the DILG budget, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago had raised the  alarm over what she saw as a lopsided 2015 budget, which favored certain department chiefs – an observation that Escudero dismissed.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr had earlier questioned why the DILG was in charge of projects that seemed to be outside its mandate.

The DILG’s proposed 2015 budget was conditionally approved Monday evening, November 24. During the media forum, Escudero also defended the Senate's version of the budget from criticisms that it still provided for pork barrel funds, which had been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The Senate version of the proposed 2015 budget was approved by the Senate on Wednesday, November 26. The bill will now proceed to the bicameral conference committee to reconcile the versions of the Senate and the House of Representatives. –