A WELFARE STATE?

By Roger Bantiles

(This article was first published in OpinYon Mindanao on July 1, 2016)

Dabawenyos know that Rodrigo Roa Duterte is tough on corrupt officials, criminals, smugglers, drug lords and pushers, but they also know that he is soft-hearted withordinary citizens. This soft-heartedness is the driving force that propels Davao City’s various programs and services to promote, protect and enhance the life, liberty and property of the citizenry.

Duterte openly admits that he is a leftist and believes in socialism minus the armed struggle. He is also an extremely capable executive.

The city has a meager budget. It is fairly recent that the city government can spend P6.5 billion as annual budget. That’s P3,421 per person per year on every Dabawenyo who now total 1.9 million persons.

Compared to the 2016 P3-trillion budget of the national government, this is peanuts. The P3-trillion national budget entitles every Filipino and Filipina –numbering 104 million according to estimates – to P28,846 worth of services, programs and projects from the government.

What Davao City has is only 0.22% of what the national government has. Stated another way, for every P1,000 that the national government has at its disposal, Davao City has only P2.20.

Despite this scanty budget, Davao City operates and maintains a round-the-clock rapid response service for Dabawenyos. That’s through Emergency Response number 911 on mobile phones and landline.On call through this number are ambulances pre-positioned to reach any medical emergency within a quarter of an hour. With staff capable of administering first aid, the ambulance brings the patient to any hospital in the city, public or private, far and near.

Rapid response to other emergencies like fire and/ordisruption of peace and order is generated through the same number. The racket of fire trucks and police alarm is joined by the penetrating ambulance sound during fire. While firefighters douse the fire, ambulances stand ready to bring victims to hospitals and police cars guard against looting.

Alone, 911 is already impressive. Only New York and Canada favorably compare with Davao City in this regard. Davao’s is free, however, while you pay for the service in Canada and New York.

The City provides other programs and services. Consider:

- Educational Assistance: Aside from giving funds to public institutions of learning for teachers’ salaries and school facilities, the city provides scholarship assistance en masse to deserving students from poor families, subject to maintenance of academic standing.

- Medical Assistance: Funds are provided to poor patients to defray part of hospital expenses, regardless of whether the hospital is public or private.

- Hospital for the Poor: The Davao Medical Center (DMC) has been converted to Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) to serve this part of the Philippines. The City Government of Davao provides funds for SPMC. With its own funds and personnel, primary and secondary level of medical services are being provided in the municipal districts as well as directly in the barangaysthrough preventive (immunization, deworming), promotive (educative), basic curative and rehabilitative health care.

The Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Unitof the SPMC servesallof Mindanao. It is to this unit that the city government regularly turns over the fines collected from the violators of the smoking ban.On a personal note, Mayor Duterte also donated a house and lot to the civic group helping the Cancer Unit so that it can provide accommodation to the caregivers of the cancer patients free of charge.

- Burial assistance: Surviving relatives of thedeceased receive burial assistance. The very poor can avail of burial service for indigents. They can request for a vehicle to bring mourners to/from the cemetery.

- Employment in city government positions: All other qualifications being equal, one’s odds at getting the position are increased by other factors like being the sole breadwinner, differently-abled, a woman, or a member of the Indigenous People.

- Business permits and licenses are issued in 72 hours,or the staff responsible has to explain the delay to the citizen in the presence of the City Mayor.

- Food For Work: The City provides food as compensation for small-scale community public works to minimize the temptation to gamble the wage received by the workers. Communities undertaking bayanihan projects can also request for ice cream to give to children bystanders.

- Discount in supermarkets for all seniors for certain groceries. Free movies too. Supermarket and theater owners are reimbursed by the city government. This is on top of the 20% general discount given to senior citizens.

Davao City is a proto-Welfare State in this respect. Will President Rodrigo Roa Duterte replicate these when he sits in Malacañang? The answer seems to be a resounding YES.

Why? For one, there is a huge budget available at the national level. If Duterte can provide such sterling services and programs to Dabawenyos on a piddling budget, he can certainly excel himself and Davao City with a budget that is 500 times bigger.

Based on campaign commitments, the Duterte Administration will also provide free irrigation water to small farmers, reducethe price of basic commodities like rice, expand PhilHealth coverage, strengthen and expand the reach of the educational system, increase the salaries of teachers, policemen and soldiers, establish at least one medical center for kidney, lung and heart in Visayas and Mindanao. While we are at it, and though these are not contained in the list of campaign commitments, why not establish also a Cancer Institute, a Children’s Center and an Orthopedic Center in every island group?

Those who monitored the Presidential campaign will remember that the Duterte/Cayetano tandem committed to what can be described as an 8-point agenda focused on: 1. Solutions to crime, corruption and drugs, 2. Economic development, 3. Agriculture & fisheries, 4. OFWs & other workers, 5. Metro Manila transportation, 6. Education, 7. Health, and 8. Disasters & Climate Change. The number and items are bound to increase with the expected demands for socio-economic reforms from insurgent and secessionist forcesas their condition for signing the agreement to cease hostilities and finally conclude a just and honorable peace.

Without graft and corruption, with careful stewardship of public resources, the P3-Trillion 2016 national budget is agood beginning for a Welfare State.It willlikely prove to be grossly inadequate for programs and projects that are part and parcel of the peace agreement/s.

What’s your opinion? For comments and reactions, write toThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call mobile no. 0923 274 68 23.

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