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The conviction of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada of plunder upholds the guiding principles of a democratic system on the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and accountability of public officials.

It doubtless shows that no man is above the law, not even its highest and most powerful implementor. It is a recognition of the reality that the victims of plunder are the people – the intended beneficiaries who are deprived of adequate social services from which were diverted the resources plundered.

The record growth rate in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is real but the burdensome population expansion and huge debt service are likewise real, thus negating the beneficent effects of economic growth.

The twin problems of excessive population growth and debt service derail and dilute the expected trickle down effect of economic growth.

Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, said that the economic stimulus package proposed by Albay Governor Joey Salceda is already adequately funded by Congress in the recently approved 2008 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) with the additional increases in the appropriations for social services and infrastructure development on top of the expanded budget proposed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

According to Lagman, “the impetus for growth to impede the expected economic slowdown as a consequence of the emerging recession in the United States has been budgeted by Congress in the GAB, thereby dispensing with the need for a supplemental budget for which funding support may be difficult to source without resorting to fresh borrowings and new taxes.”

The government’s campaign against tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS got a boost from the House of Representatives with a P700-M additional fund included in the newly approved 2008 General Appropriations Bill (House Bill No. 2454).

Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said that this additional fund was appropriated to address the country’s commitment to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as prescribed by the United Nations. One of the MDG goals is the combating of HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis.

Sustained support for social services and infrastructure development and the country’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are prioritized in the 2008 national budget as contained in the bicameral conference committee report that is slated for ratification by the House of Representatives and the Senate today, 28 January 2008.

This was underscored by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, as he and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, signed the joint conference committee report on House Bill No. 2454, the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2008 which virtually maintained the expenditure ceiling of P1.227 trillion proposed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the National Expenditure Program (NEP).