Lacson Bill Lets People Monitor Budget Process

The “scheming and scamming” that allowed corruption to creep into the budget will soon be countered with a bill allowing ordinary people to keep watch over all aspects of the budget process. 

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson filed Senate Bill No. 3020, which not only aims to stop corruption but also institutionalizes people’s access to information on how taxpayers’ money is being spent.

“Now is the time for Congress to recognize the importance of the direct participation by POs and NGOs in the budget deliberation. We should now 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,” Lacson said in his bill.

He lamented the lack of transparency that allowed corruption to creep into national budgets in past years, even in the national budget for 2009.

In the 2009 budget, he said the bicameral conference committee met only once but the chairmen passed the budget for ratification without calling a second meeting. The resulting budget bill turned out to include questionable provisions, including one requiring the local congressman’s concurrence before building a school.

Lacson said his bill institutionalizes people’s access to information regarding how taxpayers’ money is being spent. “In a way, this is likewise an anti-corruption measure,” he said.

He also noted Philippine societies can learn from countries such as Brazil, South Africa and India, where mechanisms of citizens’ participation in the budget process has become both law and tradition, and improved the delivery of basic social services and improved many lives.

In the Philippines, he said many civic society groups have already moved forward and gotten involved in the budget process by submitting alternative budgets highlighting much-needed appropriation for social services.

“In fact the efforts of these groups have made such a remarkable difference in the 2007 General Appropriations Act, wherein there was an increase of P22.7 billion in additional proposals for Millennium Development Goal (MDG) related activities, and an approval of the P5.5 billion for social services, according to NEDA’s MDG Report in 2007,” he noted.

Under the bill, the Senate, House of Representatives and local legislative bodies recognize registered people’s organizations and non-government organizations and allow them to participate in budget deliberations.

An accredited NGO or PO can participate in public meetings and hearings, and submit own alternative or proposed budgets or position papers. They will have access to the copies of the bills, budget proposals, and other pertinent documents filed with or coming from both Houses of Congress and local government units concerned, free of charge.