Aquino urged: Declare FOI measure, budget control bill as urgent
MANILA, Philippines–A group of reform-minded citizens over the weekend called on President Benigno Aquino to certify as urgent the freedom of information (FOI) bill and the proposed Budget Impoundment Control Act (Bica) in a sincere effort to protect the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget from graft and corruption.
At a recent media forum, Kilos Kaayusan (KK) chair Ben Diokno, an economics professor, said it was time Aquino showed he was truly serious about uprooting graft and corruption from the ground up.
In a statement, the group pointed out that the President had less than two years in office and the Filipino people would forever thank him for prioritizing the passage of the two laws.
The KK said it was crucial that the two laws be passed because they would clearly address the problem of misallocation of public funds. Grafters, the KK said, were using secrecy in processing documents, leading to the misuse of funds.
By passing the FOI bill, grafters in the bureaucracy would think twice before toying with the people’s monies, out of fear that a vigilant citizenry would discover where the government uses their taxes, the group said.
The Bica is still being debated in Congress since Senate Bill No. 3121 was passed in the 14th Congress. Then senator and now President Aquino was a member of that Congress.
“In this regard, the Aquino administration should show its sincerity, policy, consistency and objectivity in its fight against corruption by certifying to Congress as urgent two critical reform measures: The Freedom of Information Act and the Budget Impoundment Control Act.
The first promotes real transparency while the second limits the power of the President to subvert the congressional power of the purse. The approval of these two measures should not pose a problem for President Aquino. In the past, he supported both measures in order to correct the abuses of the president in the use of public funds. Unless these two measures are passed, there is no guarantee the fight against corruption would endure,” the KK said in the statement.
The KK stressed the need for reforms, especially when it comes to the way administrations handle the national budget. The group said the use of the budget had become a source of frustration instead of salvation for millions of impoverished Filipinos.
The KK said the government must put itself in order and conduct itself in the proper manner so that public funds were protected and the civic welfare pursued.
Diokno said there was nothing wrong with allocating funds for anti-poverty or other developmental projects since the country badly needed these as “shots in the arm.”
A former budget secretary, Diokno added that Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations, especially for education, health, infrastructure and economic safety nets should even be increased for the country not to lag behind its Asian neighbors.
Last December, amid the public outrage over the misuse of the PDAF by lawmakers, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.
Diokno said KK was advocating a threefold increase in public spending if the Philippines wants to catch up with other emerging economies in Asia.
“At this stage of our history, we need to spend more because other countries in Asia are leaving us behind. We need to spend around P600 billion every year. We are spending just around P200 billion,” Diokno said.
“If the administration believes that it is clean, we should be spending P600 billion; more bridges, more airports, more seaports,” he added.
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