Let’s sit down and talk, Palace invites protest marchers | Inquirer News
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Let’s sit down and talk, Palace invites protest marchers

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 04:17 AM August 28, 2013

Presidential deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte: Dialogue. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Tuesday invited the thousands of protesters who railed against the theft of pork barrel funds in Monday’s rally to a dialogue.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was ready to “sit down and talk” with any of the protesters and listen to their recommendations to improve a pork-less budgetary process, said deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte.

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What remains to be fixed is the date of the dialogue, she said.

“They’re just trying to find a common schedule,” Valte told a press briefing.

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Valte said one of the initiators of the netizen-inspired Million People March broached the idea of meeting Abad to present their recommendations. Abad agreed, she said.

As thousands converged at Manila’s Rizal Park on Monday, President Aquino urged Filipinos to engage the government in scrutinizing projects proposed by their congressional districts.

Monitoring projects

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the people could monitor the implementation of projects, from the bidding to the release of funds.

The President announced the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund on Friday, three days before the planned protest action.

The announcement failed to appease the protesters who pressed ahead with the rally, arguing that Aquino still gave lawmakers the discretion to nominate projects.

The President directed Senate and House leaders to devise a mechanism to address the needs of constituents in a “transparent, methodical and rational” way.

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From now on, Aquino said lawmakers could identify projects in their districts but only through the “budgetary process.” The projects, if approved, would be earmarked as “line items” in the national budget.

Reforms

At the same time, Aquino outlined several reforms to check any abuse of projects and funds, such as banning nongovernment organizations (NGOs) as conduits of funds, “soft projects” such as fertilizers and asphalting of roads, among others, in next year’s budget.

Valte said the public could also attend or listen to congressional hearings on the budget over social networking sites, on top of monitoring the website of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

“Let’s look at the projects, statement of allocations, obligations and balances. Let’s check the COA (Commission on Audit) reports, let us familiarize ourselves with it,” she said.

The President, who had no official engagements on Monday except for his National Heroes Day speech, monitored  the rally on TV in Malacañang, but issued no fresh instructions to Abad.

“The President’s instructions to the DBM secretary stand,” Valte said.

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TAGS: Abigail, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, dialogue, Malacañang, Philippines, rally, Valte
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