Crying time again for Secretary Soliman

If Social Work and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman is getting the flak for the P21 billion conditional cash transfer program that she is being tasked to implement, it’s not because people are envy.

They already know that she’s too smart in government, but with such a huge budget the government should at least explain how she intends to make the money beneficial to the people and ensure that it can help in national development efforts of the Aquino administration, and not because she just wants it for her group.

As it is, the secretary need not justify the funds since it was no less than President Aquino gave the go signal to double the budget for dole out programs initiated by the previous administration.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development was asked to supervise the program, and not the Department of Heath nor the Department of Education.

Since the DSWD has been devolved, she will have to hire 4,000 new employees and double its current workforce. That, in itself would provide new jobs in government, although Soliman would use roughly P4 billion from the CCT budget, leaving P17 billion for the actual cash grants.

She was criticized by some senators who were scrutinizing the proposed national budget. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Ralph Recto said they were surprised that the process in handing out cash grants “would cost more than the value of the benefits.”

Recto then proposed that it would be better for government to have used the existing manpower of the different agencies and local government units in implementing the CCT rather than hire new employees that would further add to the bloated bureaucracy.

Before that, cynics just doubted the DSWD’s capability to audit the 2.3 million targeted beneficiaries of the CCT.

Now, everybody seems to be ganging up Soliman and her agency, just because she got a pretty good size of the pie in the national budget, while funds for state universities and colleges were drastically reduced along with other frontline services of government.

Yesterday, the National Federation of Employees of the Department of Agriculture scored that CCY program for alleged meddling with functions already devolved to local government units.

NAFEDA also claimed that the plan was actually hatched by the same rice experts from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank who had been pressuring government to privatize rice importation. The ADB and WB allegedly extended loans to the Aquino government to fund the CCT.

The NAFEDA said that DSWD has already taken the P8 billion rice procurement funds away from the National Food Authority and is now bent on taking over the functions of the LGUs.

Under the Local Government Code, authored by former Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, social services had been devolved to the LGUs like the provision of extension services to farmers. Thus, the CCT should no longer be the turf of Secretary Soliman.

Taking away P8 billion from NFA is like transferring away from the agency that benefits productive farmers to finance a dole-out scheme that does not yield a single grain of palay.

Before the CCT  controversy, she has already been the target of attacks because of her possible involvement in the crafting of the CODE-NGO Peace Bonds that netted her group P1.8 billion from the sale of zero-coupon bonds that will mature in March 201l and compel the government to pay P35 billion.

The sector had denied involvement, saying   she had resigned from CODE-NGO before the negotiation for the Peace bonds wars implemented. But her husband remained an officer of the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) which manages the P1.4 billion fund it earned from the bond sale through the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

The poor secretary merely wanted to make a difference in government. But if she were in the movies, shewould be the typical “kontrabida”, even if her talent entails a superstar status. It appears that she  could hardly prove her worth with the barrage of negative vibes, in- and-out of the bureaucracy. Is it crying time again for Secretary Soliman? Joel Paredes

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