Volume IV, Number 17. 15 September 2022.

What better way to highlight a government’s (mis)priorities than its national budget? The proposed PhP5.3 trillion 2023 national budget of the Marcos II regime provides massive payouts for the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President Sara Duterte, national defense, foreign and national debt servicing, discretionary funds and gratuitous infrastructure. On the other hand, it extracts from the already pauperized coffers of essential social services such as health, education, social welfare, labor and the agricultural sector.

In his proposed budget, Marcos, Jr. wants to appropriate PhP8.969 billion for the Office of the President, a 10% increase from 2022, while the Office of the Vice President gets a hefty PhP2.292 billion, a whopping 223% increase from 2022! A part of both these allocations, PhP4.5 billion for Marcos II and PhP620 million for Sara Duterte, are discretionary ‘confidential and intelligence funds’, never subject to government audit and traditional source of massive corruption.

Top priority goes to the Department of Public Works and Highways with PhP718.4 billion (12.6% of the proposed budget), automatic debt service allocation at PhP611 billion (11.6%), Department of National Defense including the Armed Forces of the Philippines with PhP240.6 billion (4.6%) and the Department of Interior and Local Government including the Philippine National Police with PhP91.8 billion (3.6%).

Meanwhile, allocation for the Department of Health is drastically reduced, including its program funds for Public Health, Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases and for COVID-19 mitigation. No funds for the procurement of COVID-19 booster shots!

Budgets for the Department of Education and Department of Labor and Employment had similar cuts. A whopping PhP2.5 billion is slashed from the University of the Philippines allocation. The ‘study now, pay later’ program is defunded, and the social protection budget is reduced, amidst claims of ‘economic recovery’.

Dissenters beware, though. Marcos Jr. is carrying on with the notorious National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict and its sustained campaigns of vilification, trumped-up charges and extrajudicial killings of dissenters, as well as bombings, militarization and extrajudicial killings in rural communities. These nefarious crimes are well funded, not only from the defense, police and ‘confidential and intelligence’ funds, but also from the discretionary funds of other agencies under the thumb of the anti-communist task force.

This squander of public funds aggravate further the burden of the Filipino masses. The local ruling elite and their foreign patrons will benefit from this extravagance, while the vast majority of the already impoverished Filipinos will receive the scraps from their table. More than anything else, Marcos Jr’s 2023 budget highlights the bankruptcy of the Philippine ruling system and the urgency for the advance of the revolutionary movement for social and national liberation.