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Whither goeth the ARMM Stimulus Fund?
When the President began his personal “crusade” of reforming the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, he also spoke of the “Stimulus Fund” that would accompany the desired reforms. By pulling together the savings of six or so National Government Agencies or NGAs, the government was able to muster about P8.5 billion to bolster his desired ARMM reforms.
The Stimulus Fund served, in many ways, as the convincing factor for doubting Thomases to “dance” and sing the government’s tune of “canceling” the 2011 ARMM elections with enthusiasm. There was a hurried consultation on what would be the components of the Stimulus Fund that would respond to the long-dreamed of infrastructures in the ARMM. Particularly identified were the road networks, schools, clinics, ports and other facilities that would impact the lives and livelihood of the people in the “new” ARMM under the PNoy administration.
And so the ARMM Reform story unfolds. With the 2011 elections cancelled and “synchronized” to the elections in 2013, a new set of OICs has been installed. And a “new” huge amount has been set aside and it has been labeled as the ARMM Stimulus Fund.
But the questions that are being asked today are: Whither goes the Stimulus Fund? Who controls the said amount?
Ah! When it comes to money, a different narrative immediately unfolds.
First, the so-called Stimulus Fund is NGAs’ savings in 2010 and simply “repackaged” as an immediately “doable” and “deliverable” concrete response to the urgent cries of the constituents in the ARMM.
Second, given that the Fund is from the “savings” of the NGAs, these agencies continue to wield almost absolute control over their “money” both in the determination of the projects and in their actual implementation. Definitely, they would NOT easily part with their money notwithstanding the autonomous character of the ARMM or the appointment of new drivers “handpicked” by the President, no less!
The Stimulus Fund is a very good idea when viewed as “reconstruction fund” after years of neglect and years of “failure” of real governance in the ARMM. However, when the so called Fund is subjected to the usual government bureaucratic mill and usual politics notwithstanding the slogan of ‘matuwid na daan,’ the Fund is doomed to fail.
There have been talks of the so called Stimulus Fund for nearly seven months now. It is high time that the President gets real reports from the ground. Caution should be taken that reports do not follow the usual path of government projects and undertakings, that is, tailored-made or “customized” to please the hearers and readers residing in the National Capital Region or the paramount lord who resides along the Pasig River.
Beware of people who sing alleluias when they speak of the Stimulus Fund. So far, it remains largely in the air. Before we know it, it would turn to “hot air” of the new administration that has committed the entire bureaucracy of the national government to reform the ARMM and failed miserably.
The first real test about the Stimulus Fund is to ask the President if he truly trusts his handpicked caretakers in the ARMM. Nowhere does ARMM appear in the configuration of the said Fund except for the fact that the whole Stimulus Fund is designed for the ARMM and the beneficiaries of the ‘goods’ are the constituents of the ARMM.
In 1996, I had heard of a similar ‘tune’—the so-called mini Marshal Plan for the reconstruction of the Southern Philippines after the final peace settlement with the MNLF. The plan stayed largely on paper! If there were any reconstruction fund, they were subjected to the usual bureaucratic mill and projects were undertaken by piecemeal, resulting in dismal failure!
The same thing is happening once again to the so called Stimulus Fund... We have NOT really learned the lessons from past failures and we love to repeat them over and over again, courtesy of DBM and the so-called lead NGAs like DILG, DPWH, DSWD, DOH and DepEd. Stimulus Fund identified projects under the direct baton of these NGAs are doomed to fail.
The Stimulus Fund is fast becoming a misnomer. This fund is STIMULUS to what? Is it a grandiose display of opulence and abundance going to nought and in time of want? Whither goeth the ARMM Stimulus Fund...? Does the ‘matuwid na daan’ leadeth to nought? Cuidate! The fund is fast turning to yet another joke about autonomy!
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