THE Senate still considers 2013 a productive year despite passing only three major bills out of 2,047 measures, including the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which is now on its second reading.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said the chamber’s biggest accomplishment this year was allocating funds for the government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by calamities.
He likewise cited the passage of the 2014 national budget, and the probe on the controversial pork barrel scam and artificial rice shortage.
“Among the funding is the P14.6-billion supplemental budget which was sourced from savings made from the unreleased 2013 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the extension by one more year of the validity of the P12-billion 2013 calamity-related funds,” Drilon said.
The P2.264-trillion national budget, he added, contains around P20-billion rehabilitation funds, P80-billion worth of unprogrammed funds to serve as standby authorization for sending foreign grants to victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda; and a calamity fund of P13 billion, which, along with a P4.8 billion quick response fund, will be used for future contingencies.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Francis Escudero said that the senators were “conscious of the fact that the timely passage of the budget is the key to fuel not only the entire government machinery but also to our capability and capacity as a nation, especially in this challenging time.”
He made it clear, however, that their work does not end with the passage of the 2014 budget because the Finance and the House appropriations committees, together with the Commission on Audit, will strictly monitor the disbursement of the calamity funds through the Department of Budget and Management’s quarterly reports.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, on the other hand, noted that the chamber also intensively investigated the pork barrel scam and initiated discussions on the FOI bill.
“The Senate continued to be a guardian of the people by investigating controversial issues like the pork barrel scam, the power rate hike, and the sex-for-flight scandal.
The Chamber also made history by scrapping the entire pork barrel system which perpetuated corruption in the highest levels of government,” he stated.
Cayetano also lauded the sponsorship of the FOI bill, of which he is one of the primary authors and movers, saying that it “will empower all Filipinos to be individual graft-busters and will greatly increase transparency in the government.”