Today, Tuesday, February 18, 2014 two public hearings will be held on issues of national public interest. The first event will be the Senate hearing of the Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Reunification on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Annexes on Wealth Sharing, Power Sharing and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities. The Committee is headed by Senator TG Guingona. The hearing will be conducted in the morning, today.
The second event is on the petition filed by citizens on the constitutionality of the Development Acceleration Program (DAP) of the administration. Today, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives will present their oral argument defending the constitutionality of DAP.
Both hearings involve national interest. The hearing on the Bangsamoro FAB will include the proposed law creating a new political entity as a result of the agreement signed late last year by the government and the MILF panels The provisions will have lasting implications on the country as a whole, as well as the Bangsamoro people and the rest of the Filipino citizens.
On the other hand, the hearing on the DAP will bring to a conclusion the arguments of the petitioners as well as those of the government, which are presented to the Supreme Court for adjudication. The issue has repercussions not only on public finance but also on the constitutional mandates of the Executive and the Legislature.
The Bangsamoro Framework Agreement-an overview
On April 2014, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) will submit to Congress its proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. The proposed law will be based on the provisions of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro which was signed on October 15, 2012 by the representatives of the Government of the Philippines and the MILF.
The BTC was created on December 17, 2012. It is composed of five committees which will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. These are: a. the Committee on Basic Rights, Culture, Social Justice and Indigenous Peoples’ Matters; b. Committee on Transitory Provisions, Amendments, Revisions and Miscellaneous Matters; c. Committee on Political Autonomy; d. Committee on Fiscal Autonomy; and Committee on Justice and Security Matters.
The work of the above committees will be integrated to form the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The deadline for submission to the President is March 31, 2014.
The Senate committee hearing today will consider the views and recommendations of different sectors on the Framework Agreement, the Annexes, as well as elements of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
All Filipinos—whether Moro or Christian—are urged to monitor developments on the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Proponents believe that the passage of this proposed law will bring to a close the long decades of conflict and war. On the other hand, the law will have implications on political relationships between the new political entity, fiscal policy and accountability, as well as sharing of administrative responsibilities.
It will be to the benefit of all Filipinos—Moros and Christians alike—to scrutinize the proposals carefully in terms not only of regional issues and interests, but also of national policy and interest, as well.
The Supreme Court hearing on the DAP
It will be recalled that during the Supreme Court hearing last January 28, 2014 the Solicitor General presented arguments on why the DAP is constitutional. The benefits that were cited included claimed increases in the Gross Domestic Product and beneficial expenditures like equipment for the Weather Bureau. On the other hand, the government side admitted that funds were released to Congress to finish its library, and to COA for computers. In addition, the Budget Secretary admitted that funds were also released to senators and congressmen. These were described by the Supreme Court as “cross border expenditures”—meaning expenditures for constitutional agencies which are out of bounds to the executive.
At the same time, the DBM secretary admitted that the Budget Circular 541 authorized expenditures which were not originally provided for in the general appropriations act. Again, critics have pointed this out as a clear violation of the Constitution.
The government also announced that the DAP has already been stopped. Critics argue that this excuse does not justify the more than P149 billion in questionable DAP expenditures.
It is in the interest of citizens to monitor developments on this issue. When an illegal practice is stopped, does it legitimize the wrong that has been committed?
Analysis of the 2014 budget: Public forum at UP NCPAG
Last December 20 , 2014, the President signed the 2014 budget into law. At this time, the budget call for 2015 and the macroeconomic assumptions have already been circulated.
Social Watch Philippines is sponsoring a forum, along with Scrap Pork Network on the contents of the 2014 budget and the 2015 budget assumptions. Prof. Emeritus Leonor Magtolis Briones will give the main lecture with Scrap Pork Network Greco Belgica, lead petitioner on PDAF, and Dr. Joyce Cuaresma of NCPAG as reactors.
The event will be held on Friday, February 21, 2014 at the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance Assembly Hall from 1:00pm-5:00pm. The public is cordially invited.