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[Part 2] A not so deliberate agenda: How the 14th and 15th House of Representatives funded ARMM and Muslim Mindanao through a thematic analysis of Congressional Records

Editor’s Note: This is the 2nd part of a two part paper discussing the peculiarities and process of budget deliberations in the 14th and 15th Congress particularly in relation to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. To access the 1st part, please click this link:  http://wp.me/p3uni6-h9

Part 2: Themes in Congressional Records and Summary

SEARCHING THE AGENDA

In the first part of this essay, it was shown that while the ARMM budget remains small as a percentage of the total national budget, the region received hefty and highly-substantial increases in appropriations for the past half-decade.

Therefore, it is probably equally important to assess what were the agenda or reasons that allowed for such case. While it is the Executive branch that prepares the budget, it is the Legislative branch that modifies and ratifies the proposal to make it into a budget law. This section is then devoted to assess how the 14th and 15th House of Representatives decided on the Executive’s Proposal which in turn underlines their different agendas that possibly paved way for the larger ARMM budgets. These agendas in turn show the quality of these increases which can either be sustained or easily whittle down and which agendas will more likely be needed to be pushed again in the future for continued investments in the region.

However, this study is limited to the review of the records from the House of Representatives due to limited time possible for the researcher given the time-consuming methodology. As such, this section of the study does not claim any generalisation on the processes of both chambers of Congress and is specifically limited to the 14th and 15th House of Representatives.

Using a CAQDAS software, a total of 260 Congressional Records from all the regular sessions of the 14th Congress and another 259 records from the 15th Congress were initially searched for the following keywords: budget, ARMM, Mindanao, Muslim, Islam, and Moro. Each paragraph that contained at least one of these words, was coded accordingly to the keyword. The said keywords were also searched along with their grammatical derivatives likes budgeted, Muslims, Moros, budgets, etc.

Then, to narrow down the working text only to those relevant to the topic, paragraphs that contained (i) budget and ARMM, (ii) budget and Mindanao, (iii) budget and Muslim, (iv) budget and Islam and (v) budget and Moro, were searched and coded accordingly to find sections of text with high relevance on the study matter. Furthermore, paragraphs were used as coding units because sentences might not be able to capture contexts while fuller speeches might contain a variety of topics that may not be necessarily related.

This process already revealed a striking result. For both Congresses, there was a total of only three (3) paragraphs that contained both budget and Islam. The results for budget and Moro were also appalling as it yielded a mere four (4) paragraphs that can be coded (emphasis mine). And because the last result are the same, this further brings down the number of unique instances when these matters were brought up.

Meanwhile, there were only 68 coding units that contained budget and ARMM, 72 units that contained budget and Muslim, and 249 units that contained budget and Mindanao, from the Congressional Records of both the 14th and 15th Congresses.

All of these paragraphs were perused one at a time to generate new codes. The different (i) personalities were coded based on representatives that talked in the Regular Sessions. The relative frequencies therefore show the representatives that were most vocal on topics related to the budget of Mindanao, Muslims, Islam, ARMM, and Moro. For purposes of brevity, budget for these regions (Mindanao, Muslims, Islam, ARMM, and Moro) will be referred to as budget for Muslim Mindanao collectively.

The topics or issues then fall under the next three categories, either (ii) budget concerns, (iii) national and societal development concerns, (iv) matters, agencies, and groups related to the peace process, and (v) other government agencies, funds, and other groups. Codes that dealt with issues on budget, i.e. disappointment over lack of budget or notes that the budget increased, were categorized as budge concerns.

Meanwhile, another category summarized the (vi) legislative motions and actions that pertain to operation activities in a Regular Session. On the one hand, some representatives would only speak to sponsor a relevant bill or terminate the interpolation on a relevant budget. On the other hand, some were keenly focused on related issues.

So how did this coding go for both Congresses?

In the 14th Congress

In the 14th Congress, the most active players on the budgetary allocations for Muslim Mindanao, were Representatives (i) Rufus B. Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro, Puwersa ng Masang Filipino or PMP), (ii) Nur G. Jaafar (Tawi-Tawi, Lakas-CMD), (iii) Didagen P. Dilangalen (Maguindanao, PMP), (iv) Ariel C. Hernandez (Sector, Party List Anak Mindanao or AMIN), (v) Janette L. Garin (Iloilo, Lakas-CMD), (vi) Mujiv S. Hataman (Sector, Party List AMIN), and (vii) Luzviminda C. Ilagan (Sector, Party List Gabriela). Their affiliations were based on congress record (Congress of the Philippines, 2010).

Of these seven (7) players, only two (2) were from the ruling party in House of Representatives, the Lakas-CMD.  Ironic, however, that the most active player, Rep. R. Rodriguez, is from PMP–the party of former President Estrada that was ousted by then-current President Arroyo, then-forerunner of Lakas-Kampi-CMD banners.  It is also notable that three of said top players were from party-lists, specifically Anak Mindanao and Gabriela.

First, it was noticed that the concerns of the different Representatives are highly varied. A cross-tabulation of these codes co-occurring with these representatives yield around 60 results. However, by getting only the most frequent concern reveal that the largest issue was the fact that there is an uneven budget. This code was given to units of texts that expresses dismay over and/or accepts that there is an uneven distribution of the national budget across regions. And this is most pushed forward, if not almost solely, by Rep. R. Rodriguez.

Meanwhile the second most prevalent concern is that the Mindanao region at large needs more budget. This is more evenly voiced out by the legislators. Appropriations for ARMM come latter but it still a top concern.

Table 3: Click on image to enlarge

Table 3: Click on image to enlarge

It is also worth noting that of the two Party-List representatives of AMIN, Rep. Hernandez, pushed more topics and at more occurrences than party-mate Rep. Hataman who sparingly participated across different concerns. Rep. Hernandez, in five occurrences, noted that Mindanao did not get the appropriations they ought to receive and that there are issues with infrastructure and DPWH. He also notes, through the code that Mindanao is a food basket, that Mindanao is a source of Philippine GDP at two occurrences.

Nevertheless, the table above also captures most of the raised and latent issues and concerns of all representatives that talked about Muslim Mindanao in the 14th Congress. As shown in the table below of the most frequent topics raised, the uneven distribution of budget remains the largest concern that is shared not just with the most participative legislators on the topic but also with the rest of the chamber. While the need for more budget consistently seconds the prior concern, proposal for budget increase or augmentation closes in at third. ARMM appropriations were also raised for discussion. Lastly, it can be noticed that most of these key topics were pushed only by a select few.

Table 4: Click on image to enlarge

Table 4: Click on image to enlarge

In the 15th Congress

This Congress marks the transition from the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Benigno Aquino, III.  This is coupled by a change in the legislators that contributed the most in budget discussions pertinent to this study, namely, Representatives (i) Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro, Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines or CDP, Majority), (ii) Joseph Emilio Abaya (Cavite, Liberal Party or LP, Majority), (iii) Marc Douglas Cagas IV (Davao del Sur, Nacionalista, Minority), (iv) Pangalian Balindong (Lanao del Sur, LP, Majority), (v) Tupay Loong (Sulu, National Unity Party, Majority), (vi) Simeon Datumanong (Maguindanao, Lakas, Minority), and (vii) Maria Milagros Magsaysay (Zambales, United Nationalist Alliance, Majority).

Like the 14th Congress, majority or 5 out of 7 of the representatives that contributed the most to the discourse on the region’s budget also came from the region. Again, Rep. Rodriguez dominates the discussion and retains discourse on the uneven distribution of the budget. While the discussions on the 14th congress centred more on pushing for more allocations, and on appropriations of SUCs and for infrastructures, the table below shows new trends in the discussions of the 15th congress.

Table 5: Click on image to enlarge

Table 5: Click on image to enlarge

These discussions focused more on how the 15th congress can make budget more equitable. Some talked about how the budget cannot be further broken down because of the difficulties in marking which parts of budget from the central office of agencies go to regions. To aid this vein of discussion, the representatives often resorted to asking the Department of Budget and Management on figures and explanations. Representative Abaya, the only member of the Liberal Party (President Aquino’s party), among the most active players had to repeatedly explain that some budget lodged on the central office may still generate projects, activities, or services for other regions.

Meanwhile, it can also be seen that the sentiment of needing more budget and that motions that propose for budget increase or augmentation remain.

The 15th Congress, as a whole, also shares the same issues and concerns raised by the most frequent Representatives. The table below shows that the 15th congress had a lot of markers for interpolation and this marks that there were more instances in taking up an aspect of the budget. The table below also shows that the sentiment on unequal budget distribution is not just pushed forward by the most frequent Representatives but also by other legislators as well.

Table 6: Click on image to enlarge

Table 6: Click on image to enlarge

ARMM Appropriations

Besides the sentiment on the uneven distribution of the national budget, it was also consistent that there were paragraphs that focused solely on problematizing the appropriations for ARMM. These most frequent codes that co-occurred with ARMM appropriations are the following

Codes: Click on image to enlarge

Codes: Click on image to enlarge

The codes above were obtained by getting the uppermost range of results per congress and consolidating them in one table. These shows that some issues were most associated with ARMM appropriations for both Congresses. Notably, this means that when ARMM is talked about, it’s usually about the uneven distribution of the budget and the need for more budget and better infrastructure allocations. Peace and security concerns were co-occurring with ARMM.

CONCLUSIONS

Coding reveals, however, of all the possible co-occurrence of the keyword budget with either keywords Mindanao, Islam, ARMM, and Moro, the budget is almost always talked with Mindanao and least talked about ARMM.

The lack of coherent and dedicated attention given to the ARMM budget shows that the budget increases were a result of the legislator’s push for larger regional budget as done through their interpolations, legislations, and special provisions on the budget. Interestingly, the largest increase on the ARMM budget for this cohort was registered on the first budget crafted by the Aquino 2 administration where the budget received large increases in department budget and PDAF budget. This may have been either a result of the 14th Congress’ motions or the administration’s deliberate adjustments under its flagship good governance agenda. Maintaining popularity by supporting motions by an opposition member like Representative R. Rodriguez might have also pushed for the larger budget.

The transition from the 14th Congress to the 15th Congress revealed that some concerns remain unaddressed, specifically the uneven distribution of the budget and the need for more appropriations.

Representative Rufus Rodriguez was also consistently the most active player on the appropriations. While majority of his concerns were largely for Mindanao, this allowed for the discussion of the ARMM budget as well. However, discussions on ARMM budget alone are still fewer than that for the region which shows a lack of deliberate focus on the legislature. And of the many regular sessions, discussions remain underwhelming and handful.

While this shows Misuari that ARMM received larger appropriations, the sentiments of his sympathisers, sans his possible political agendas, is also shared by Representatives that came from the region.  By tying the lack of budget on concerns like the need for more infrastructure, SUC, and housing investment, discontentment might actually be bred by the lack of tangible government investments.

The results also supported some literature on national budgets. Alt and Lowry (2013) noted that party control has large impacts on fiscal adjustments. They noted that the ruling party can sway decisions[54]. While the most frequent legislators were in the majority bloc of the 15th Congress, they were on the opposition parties of the winning and current President. Rep. R. Rodriguez, the most active player has also always been in opposition and swaying the budget may prove to be actually difficult. And as the ruling party continues to introduce reforms, these reforms must be reviewed because these might decrease Congress’ power of lawmakers as a group to enact a new of spending,[55] which in this case might hinder more equitable budget pushed by the opposing party.

Meanwhile, Diamond[56] also noted that budget execution is held back by poor budget preparation. Perhaps the lack of strenuous and consistent effort to drive interpolations for the ARMM budget made budget preparations poor for this sector. Budget execution would then find a disconnect. Mikesell and Mullins[57] previously noted that institutions have to be built as well and there must be a clear accountability to make budgets deliver. However, the lack of consistent push from the ruling parties showed minimal accountability.

One of the possible bottomlines therefore is for ruling parties themselves to push for ARMM appropriations in Congress and in public discourse, build institutions that deliver promises attached to these budgets, and by making the budget deliberately inclusive by talking about religion and cultural matters as grounds to push for more appropriations and recognize that the people from these regions do matter.

Finally, this paper also admits that the limited scope of text reviewed may not present a total picture on the discourse for ARMM budget. Further studies may refine the coding schemes and do it repeatedly by a team and not by a lone researcher. Studies on other texts, like Senate hearings and news articles may also provide a sharper view on the matter.

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[54] Alt & Lowry, 2000. A Dynamic Model of State Budget Outcomes under Divided Partisan Government

[55] Garrett, E., 2000. The Congressional Budget Process: Strengthening the Party-in-Government. Columbia Law Review, 100(3), pp. 702-730.

[56] Diamond, 2003. Budget System Reform in Transitional Economies

[57] Mikesell & Mullins, 2001 . Reforming Budget Systems in Countries of the Former Soviet Union