Make 2024 nat'l budget bicam meet accessible to public, lawmakers urged | Inquirer News

Make 2024 nat’l budget bicam meet accessible to public, lawmakers urged

/ 03:20 PM December 01, 2023

Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares asks both the Senate and the House of Representatives to make the bicameral committee discussions on the proposed P5.7 trillion 2024 national budget accessible to the public.

FILE PHOTO: Former congressman and Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares. INQUIRER FILES

MANILA, Philippines — A former lawmaker has asked both the Senate and the House of Representatives to make the bicameral committee discussions on the proposed P5.7 trillion 2024 national budget accessible to the public.

Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares said the bicameral conference on the 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) is important since congressional insertions usually happen during this process.


He said the meetings of the bicameral panel could be live-streamed or held in an accessible venue for the sake of transparency.


During the bicameral conference, representatives from both the House and the Senate would resolve differences in their respective versions of the budget bill.  However, traditionally, bicameral meetings are held behind closed doors, with media only being allowed access at certain points during the hearings.

“We demand that the bicameral committee meetings be made public and be live-streamed.  This should not be done in an undisclosed hotel or exclusive venue.  The budget being discussed in the bicameral committee conference are public funds, and the public has all the right to witness how the budget bill is finalized,” Colmenares said Thursday.

READ: Bicam panel: ‘0’ secret funds for OVP, Deped

“The Bicam is the most crucial and dangerous period in the budget process.  The Bicam conference is where all the insertions take place, which means after all the debates in both houses, a small group of legislators will get to decide on the final items and amounts of the budget bill,” he added.

According to Colmenares, the bicameral conference should be held in a place like the Senate plenary where the public have access.

“We urge the public to demand that the bicameral meeting be done in a publicly accessible venue like the Senate plenary hall that can be witnessed by all  We urge the public to demand that the entire proceedings be recorded and/or live-streamed and the transcripts of the deliberations of items and amounts allocated must be reported to the public,” he also said.


The differences in the House and Senate versions of the 2024 GAB remains unclear as of this writing, but many are eager to know how the legislators would address the confidential funds (CF) of government civilian agencies in the final form of the bill.

In the House’s version of the 2024 GAB, the P1.23 billion CF of government civilian agencies that do not have a mandate to investigate and do surveillance has been removed and transferred to security offices like the Philippine Coast Guard.

READ: House gives zero confidential funds to OVP, DepEd, DICT, DFA, DA

The total includes the P500 million CF request of the Office of the Vice President and the P150 million CF request of the the Department of Education – two government civilian agencies being helmed by Vice President Sara Duterte in concurrent capacity.

READ: How House removed, reduced the confidential funds of gov’t agencies

Concerns were raised that the removed CF would be restored during the bicameral conference which started on Thursday, November 30. But Senate finance panel chair Senator Sonny Angara said this is less likely.

READ: Removed secret funds less likely to be restored in bicam level — Angara 

House committee on appropriations chair and Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co meanwhile assured the public that they would be guided by principles of transparency in threshing out differences in the 2024 national budget.

Co is Angara’s counterpart at the lower chamber.

“Let us approach this endeavor with a spirit of unity and guided by the principles of transparency, accountability, and the unwavering pursuit of the common good. Let us find a way to reconcile our differences, aligning them with the overarching programs of the present Administration,” Co said in his opening statement Thursday.

“The complexities and intricacies in the management and implementation by the agency were manifest during the hearings of the Committee. It underscores the need for a comprehensive strategy to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the program implementation,” he added.

READ: Congress may restore part of DICT’s confidential fund – Angara

Still, Colmenares appealed to the Senate and House Minority to push for the holding of the bicameral meetings in an accessible public venue so that majority of Filipinos can view what is happening.

“We ask Sen. Koko Pimentel, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, and the House minority to demand that the bicameral meeting be held in an accessible public venue.  We urge all  advocates for a transparent budget to launch mass actions, social media campaigns and actively voice the demand that the bicameral meeting be made public,” he said.

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“The Constitution recognizes the right of the public to information.  Article II Section 28 also provides that ‘Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest’,” he added. “We demand that the bicameral meeting be made public and accessible to those interested in witnessing how their public funds will be spent.”

TAGS: 2024 national budget, bicameral conference committee

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