• Aquino endorses FOI bill

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    MONEY MATTERS Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr (right) receives a copy of the proposed 2016 national budget from Budget Secretary Butch Abad.  PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

    MONEY MATTERS Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr (right) receives a copy of the proposed 2016 national budget from Budget Secretary Butch Abad.
    PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

    Measure pushed in budget message

    DRAWING flak for not mentioning the controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in his final State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday asked Congress to pass the proposed law to cement transparency in government.

    The Senate has already passed Senate Bill 1733 — its version of the proposed FOI Law — on March 10, 2014 but its counterpart measure in the House of Representatives remains pending.

    House Bill 3237 or the proposed FOI Law establishes the legal presumption that people should have full access to government information. It enumerates instances when data must be published online or transmitted to those interested “without the necessity of demand.”

    The bill, authored by Camarines Sur Rep. Maria Leonor Robredo and Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, remains pending in the House of Representatives.

    In his message to lawmakers on the proposed 2016 budget, Aquino enumerated his administration’s policies or reforms “that establish greater fiscal openness” such as the reduction of lump-sum funds, the Transparency Seal program and Open Data Philippines initiative.

    “To ensure the permanency of transparency policies, we urge Congress to pass the Freedom of Information Act,” he said.

    The budget message was released to the media a day after the President delivered his sixth and last SONA on Monday.

    By reducing lump-sum funds and presenting a budget plan with detailed programs and projects, according to Aquino, the government reduces opportunities for corruption while speeding up the budget execution process.

    “We firmly believe that greater fiscal transparency leads to a more responsive government,” he said.

    Aquino added that through his other transparency initiatives, citizens have improved understanding of the national budget and faster access to information on government finances and operations.

    “By publishing performance information through the Performance-Informed Budgeting and the regular budget reports, we also empower them to hold us accountable for the results of our actions,” the President said.

    He assured that these policies will still be embedded in the proposed budget for 2016.
    Aquino claimed that his reforms have “dramatically improved” the country’s standing in global benchmarks of budget transparency.

    He cited the International Monetary Fund, which has declared that the Philippines “exhibits good and advanced practices in several areas of its new Fiscal Transparency Code.”

    The International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey Tracker showed that the Philippines is now publishing all required budget documents, Aquino said.

    Ready for plenary
    Akbayan party-list Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez 3rd earlier said the FOI bill will be ready for plenary debates next month.

    Gutierrez noted that the bill “was not given the opportunity to be discussed in plenary” because Congress spent much of its time tackling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

    “What we want to happen after the State of the Nation Address is for the House to give time to the FOI sponsorship speech, either within the same week or by August, before the budget deliberations,” he said.

    He described the House version of the FOI bill as a “good version,” owing to its open data provisions, including a mandatory disclosure clause for budgets and expenditures, as well as the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of government officials and
    employees, including judges.

    At present, the Supreme Court screens requests made to access the SALN of its justices.
    Gutierrez said the House version also requires contracts for projects commissioned by the government to be uploaded online.

    He added that the Senate version “is a classic FOI that is demand-driven.”

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    8 Comments

    1. The International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey Tracker showed that the Philippines is now publishing all required budget documents, Aquino said.

      Starting when ? yesterday ?

      Where did the Pork barrel funds go ?
      Where did the Dap fund money go ?

      Got records for all that ?

    2. That’s all it takes for Congress to pass a bill is for the President to say it’s ok with him ?
      Why didn’t the President endorse it 5 years ago when he promised ? Oh wait a minute i forgot he didn’t want anyone looking at where the money he and his allies were misusing.
      Didn’t think it was supposed to work like that. Oh wait a sec i forgot, he owned the house and senate when they took those pork barrel and dap fund bribes and gifts.

      Funny how one guy controls every branch of government, oh wait i forgot he got rid of key people and installed his friends and classmates to run the Military, the police, the MRT, LTO, Dept of Energy, Dept of Agriculture, Dept of Justice, Ombudsman and the Supreme Court.

      That explains why none of them do anything without his permission and never charge any of his friends for graft or plunder.

      The only problem with controlling everything is eventually you will be blamed for everything that went wrong, and pretty much everything is wrong in the Philippines.

      How’s the Train system working ?
      Flooding in Manila fixed yet ?
      How those new Helicopters working ?
      De Lima ever charge the other 15 Liberal Party senators on Napoles list ?
      What about the 100 house members on the Napoles list ?
      Sec Abad ever turn over the records of the Pork barrel and Dap fund giveaway ?
      Did the Ombudsman ever charge anyone over the Dap fund giveaway ?
      Anyone ever find out why no reinforcements went to help the SAF 44 ?
      130,000 people living in tents after the Yolanda Typhoon ?

      Someone may have a lot to answer for someday.

    3. Mariano Patalinjug on

      Yonkers, New York
      29 July 2015

      It is understandable why it took the Senate this long to pass the Freedom of Information Bill, and why the House of Representatives still has to pass it after so much dilly-dallying all these years.

      The Congress is awash in “lawmakers-lawbreakers” and that FOI bill will very likely keep some of them from dipping their dirty and corrupt hands into the “kitty” of lump sum appropriations which are really “pork barrel” money.

      [As reported in the press, there is a total of P500 million of these “lump sum” appropriations in President Aquino’s next budget!]

      I am afraid that even if the FOI bill finally passes both houses and is signed into law by the President, those crooks in the Congress will continue to find ways to line their pockets–or their bank accounts!–with those “lump sum” funds.

      MARIANO PATALINJUG
      Lapulapu1927@yahoo.com

    4. The government will violate whatever law they want just like they have done the past 5 years, laws don’t slow those plundering clowns down at all. Even if the supreme court tells the Ombudsman to investigate and charge the plunders of the DaP fund the Ombudsman Morales just ignored the order and never investigated or charged anyone.

      The COA requested records on the Pork barrel and Dap funds to track down where and how it was spent and the budget Sec Abad just ignored them and never turned any records over.

      When someone goes to request information on what the government spent if and when they pass that bill they will be ignored just like everyone else has been.

    5. Passage of an FOI bill will provide each and every one of us Filipino to level the job now allocated to COA in terms of budget and project performance and compliance audit and will give us an important check and balance mechanism to see how our national and local officials perform and true to the words of mouth, can access the SALN of suspected erring govt. officials who amassed wealth on an ant’s hill?

    6. too late! enforcement of the FOI bill will be on the next administration! and nonyoy will do everything (using hocus PCOs machines) for his candidate to win to shield him and lock out the documents showing his evil deeds!