The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) strongly denounces Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s fiscal dictatorship for issuing a veto on the entire item of the appropriations covered under Debt Service-Interest Payment in Republic Act 9498 or the General Appropriations Act of 2008 that would have prohibited wasteful allocations of the people’s hard-earned and limited resources.

While we are not surprised over the veto, we believe that her decision to oppose the proposal of civil society and the Congress to reduce the appropriations for debt service and the re-allocation of these funds to social and economic services is another act of treachery to the Filipino people. It is in fact the commonsensical action of a President who has a penchant for doing the opposite of the people’s will. It is an action of a leader who is more concerned in protecting the government’s credit rating in the global community than providing the basic needs and promoting the welfare of the people.

More so, her decision to reject the provision requiring the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Department of Finance to “submit a quarterly report of actual foreign and domestic debt service payments to the House Committee on Appropriations and Senate Committee on Finance within one (1) month after each quarter” is an open attack on the constitutional mandate of the Philippine Congress of the power of the purse. By once again acting as the schoolyard bully, she completely exposed the Executive Department’s enormous fiscal powers put in the service of the country’s debt management that is primarily beholden to creditors.

Mrs. Arroyo’s fiscal dictatorship must stop.

Missed Opportunity

In a time when our country is undergoing a serious political crisis brought about by the same issue which the special provisions are trying to avert in the future, Mrs. Arroyo’s approval of the entire item under the debt service section could have been a welcome respite.

In her veto message, Mrs. Arroyo cited that it has been eight years since a President vetoed a provision for debt service-interest payment. However, she mocked and insulted the people by saying “[m]uch as I bemoan this act, I, as President, have to assert the rule of law and hereby veto the entire item of the appropriations covered under Debt Service-Interest Payment” so as to “prevent the encroachment of constitutional guarantees on non-impairment of contracts.”

Really? Her bleeding heart is with us, yet she must follow the “rule of law”-- hence forcing us to pay illegitimate debts? How crudely hypocritical!

FDC has said time and again, not everything legal is right and just. As the ongoing investigation into the ZTE-NBN contract reveals, there are just so many hidden players with un-moderated greed in the non-transparent process of contract negotiations that would have passed on bloated contract costs to be shouldered by the Filipino people. Had vested interests agreed to “moderate their greed,” this particular contract could have been legal!

We would like to jog Mrs. Arroyo’s memory that as President of this country, she and other national leaders have the power not only to protect and implement the laws of the land but more importantly, they also have the duty and responsibility to change laws that are deemed archaic if not critical obstacles to genuine development.

The Philippine Congress, which is the chief architect of our laws and regulations, has recognized this with their passage of the 2008 Budget together with the special provisions. However, Mrs. Arroyo, the truth-challenged President whose legitimacy continues to be questioned, is so callous and blind to see this.

Manipulated Timing

Furthermore, we equally condemn the crafty and manipulated timing of the issuance of Mrs. Arroyo’s veto message on the day Congress adjourned for the holy week. Obviously, it was deliberate to forestall any serious initiative by lawmakers to override the veto.

With this, FDC challenges Congress to avenge this unmistakable Executive infringement on their right to plan and manage the people’s resources.

We challenge our legislators to deliver a strong message against Mrs. Arroyo’s fiscal dictatorship by mustering the needed political will to repeal the Automatic Debt Servicing Provision from the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 (formerly PD 1177)—the law which provides the institutional and legal mechanisms of prioritizing debt service over and above the urgent needs of the Filipino people.

Freedom from Gloria

We also call on the people not to let the treachery of Mrs. Arroyo go unpunished. We enjoin the Filipino people to join us together with other social movements in our collective struggle to free our nation from the clutches of a make-believe President.

Let us free ourselves from debt domination. Let us start this process by joining our voices to the call—Gloria Macapagal Arroyo must go, NOW!




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