Press Release
August 1, 2011


Mr. President, Colleagues, our partners in the Civil Society who are present today, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

Twenty-four years ago, the passage of the 1987 Philippine Constitution ensured that "the rights of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making shall not be abridged. The State shall, by law, facilitate the establishment of adequate consultation mechanisms (Article XIII, Section 16)."

Senate Bill No. 2857, "An Act Institutionalizing the Participation of Civil Society Organization (CSOs) in the Preparation and Authorization Process of the Annual National Budget, Providing Effective Mechanisms Therefor, and for Other Purposes," is in response to the principle enshrined in the Constitution in that it seeks the institutionalization of the people's meaningful participation in the budget process.

Simplelang naman ang dahilan para sa batas na ito: pera ng tao ang pinag-uusapan sa budget preparations and deliberations. Kaya kailangan nilang malaman kung saan ito napupunta, magkano ang naibibigay sa kung anong opisina, at ano ang balak nila gawin sa pera ng taumbayan. It is about time that we institutionalize people's participation in a very important policy of the government such as the budget, and give back to the Filipino people their say in how their money is being spent My advocacy to allow the people to take part in the budget process is a continuation of my efforts as Congressman of the 2nd District of Bukidnon. In the House of Representatives, I already authored House Resolution 120 which enabled non-government organizations and people's organizations to participate in Congress' budget deliberations. At the House, I also filed a similar bill to allow the people to participate in the budget process. I have again, as senator, filed the same bill in the 15th Congress. I am confident that now, this bill will finally be passed.

Participation is not only enshrined in the Constitution but is part of our culture as a people, which goes back to traditional community practices and village councils where every villager participated in and contributed to community decisions. Although democratic traditions were suppressed during the colonial period and marginalized by the 18 years of martial law regime, there is no question that culturally, people's participation is not a new concept and in fact an integral part of governance in the Philippines.

We also share this participatory culture with other countries all over the world. Four countries have already institutionalized people's participation in the budget process through the passage of meaningful legislation: South Africa, with its Local Government Municipal Finance Management Act of 2003, Bolivia, with its Popular Participation Law (Law 1551), India, with its People's Campaign for Decentralized Planning, and State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil with its Participation Budgeting Process.

With this bill, the Philippines will join the ranks of countries that seek to empower its people through meaningful participation in the budget by guaranteeing that accredited organizations will receive notices and participate as resource person through its duly authorized representatives in the preparation and deliberation of the budget, gain access to copies of the budget proposals submitted by the national government agencies or GOCCS to the DMB and other budget-related documents, and, submit its own alternative or proposed budget or position paper, and other written proposals on projects and activities of the government entities whose budget is under deliberation. Participation, under this bill, is not only the privilege of accredited organizations. This bill does not exclude non-accredited organizations who may still participate according to their constitutional rights. The bill also holds accountable people's organizations, and not just government. Safeguards against conflicts of interest are among the salient points of this bill. Trust after all in a two-way street. For two parties, the government and the people, to work together and move forward, both sides have to trust each other.

Humility in the knowledge that the government does not know everything is the key to development. We need to open up government processes to the people. Knowledge gleaned from inputs by the people from the grassroots will only enhance and inform government's decision-making when it comes to spending the people's money for the greater good. With this bill, I hope to harmonize Professor Leonor Magtolis Briones' definition of people in governance as "the expression of citizenship and the collective exercise of power of the organized disadvantaged basic sectors to advance people's interests," with the government's commitment to the greater good, through participatory budgeting.

With this bill, I envision a budget process where the legislators and the people work together in ensuring that the allocations are responsive to the needs of the people, sensitive to the financial condition of the country, and pro-active in relation to the social, economic, and political goals of government and governance.

This bill is not only a grant of access for the people to participate but also an expressed mandate for each participant to participate effectively in the budget process. That those who participate in the process take it upon themselves not only to criticize the proposals of government but also to put forward constructive proposals that may improve the final budget to be approved. I call on our partners in the Civil Society to maximize this opportunity to work together with government, and to meaningfully participate in the budget process. I enjoin my distinguished colleagues here in the Senate to support and pass this people's bill. Because today, ultimately, this bill seeks to give back to the Filipino people their say in the budget process. With this bill, the Filipino can say, Pera Ko, May Say Ako!

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