Farmers: No to intel funds, yes to social services

Farmer groups said the government’s proposed P5.678 trillion 2024 budget must be carefully scrutinized, adding planned intelligence and debt servicing funds should be allocated to social services instead.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said that the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President and the Department of National Defense are needlessly allocated P4.5 billion, P500 million and P1.7 billion, respectively.

“These proposed confidential and intelligence funds should be re-channeled to social services instead,” KMP said.

The KMP also said the P700 billion earmarked for debt servicing (12% of the proposed budget) as well as the P282 billion for national defense (4.9%) are more than the P893 billion (15%) for all public services combined.

The Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration’s proposed 2024 infrastructure program is even bigger at P1.4 trillion, the farmers’ group said.

“There should be enough time to study and scrutinize the proposed budget. It is hard to believe this is a pork barrel-free budget. Because this will come from people’s taxes, everyone must be alert or else, this will only be wasted by corruption,” the KMP said in the statement.

KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos also said they will scrutinize the proposed budget for the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources to see how they would be spent to respond to the problems of the agriculture sector.

Ramos added that the sector would press for more funds for subsidies for greater local agricultural production.

The Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) also questioned the total of about P10 billion confidential and intelligence fund proposal as “Like footing the bill for being stepped on.”

UMA expressed fears the said items will only be used for used to suppress the labor and peasant movements through surveillance and other human rights violations.

“Why should the people agree to pay for this regime’s fascism and corruption? We are their victims and yet they ask us to pay,” UMA acting chairperson Ariel Casilao said.

UMA pointed out farmers are victims of harassments and vilification campaigns of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, such as the Batangas and Isabela sugar workers.

The group also blamed the massacre of the Fausto family in Negros Occidental for being members of a local farmers’ association.

“That is how the regime will spend the P10 billion – with trumped up stories and charges. Sadly, the effects are not fiction. Blood is spilled by their actions,” Casilao said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)