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Tutulong din vs hidden pork! Ping bill encourages public to participate in budget legislation

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“Ordinary” taxpayers will soon have a bigger role to play in guarding the national budget against pork, with a bill Sen. Panfilo Lacson filed this week.

Lacson’s Senate Bill 2219, which was filed on Monday, April 29, institutionalizes the direct participation of people’s organizations and non-government organizations in the preparation of the spending bill.

“Now is the time for Congress to recognize the importance of the direct participation by people’s organizations and non-government organizations in the budget deliberation,” Lacson said in his bill.

“We should institutionalize the practice of legislature-civil society collaboration in order to achieve a people-oriented budget as well as establish transparency and accountability in the budget process,” he added.

In his bill, Lacson noted the budget encompasses all aspects of governance and reflects government’s sincerity and political will to achieve social and economic change.

Lacson noted the standoff that delayed the passage of the 2019 national budget was due mainly to abuse and indiscretions by some legislators from both houses of Congress.

He lamented the House of Representatives’ leadership under Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo even went beyond the mandate of the law and time-honored legislative practice by introducing realignments even after the budget had been ratified – a violation of the 1987 Constitution.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the 2019 spending bill last April 15, but not without vetoing P93.5 billion in questionable items, including the post-realignment manipulations questioned by Lacson and the Senate leadership.

Lacson, who has served as a watchdog of the budget, stressed civil society organization (CSO) participation “shall be a component in the preparation and authorization of the annual national budget,” with national government agencies (NGAs) and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) outlining the relevant mechanisms for their active participation.

He added the budget plays a vital role in the operations of our government, and ultimately in the life of every Filipino.

As such, he said there should be mechanisms in place “that will enable citizens to participate in the budget process so as to correct spending priorities and to ensure transparency in the appropriation of valuable taxpayers’ money.”

The budget process should allow Filipinos to exercise their citizenship through the power to directly influence social and economic priorities, he added.

Under the bill, CSOs such as NGOs and professional and faith-based groups can observe public consultations, and submit position papers for the consideration of the NGAs or GOCCs.

But those that are accredited will have additional privileges and incentives, including:

* being allowed to observe at budget deliberations and at the bicameral conference
* participation as resource persons in budget hearings in both houses of Congress
* access to documents including copies of the budget proposals submitted by NGAs or GOCCs to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)
* ability to provide written proposals and position papers to the DBM on the budget proposals of NGAs or GOCCs; and submit their own alternative or proposed budget.

For their part, the Senate Committee on Finance and House Committee on Appropriations shall schedule one hearing day for the presentation of the positions of accredited CSOs on the budget.

CSOs may apply for accreditation before NGAs, GOCCs, the Senate, House of Representatives, Judiciary and Constitutional Offices.

They should provide documents including full disclosure of sources of funds, as well as of service contracts with other NGAs, CSOs, private corporations, other CSOs and other engagements that may result in conflict of interest.

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