[In the news] BusinessWorld Online Edition |House approves bill giving NGOs voice in budget hearings

BusinessWorld Online Edition |House approves bill giving NGOs voice in budget hearings.

Source: http://www.bworldonline.com

 

source: congress.gov.ph

A BILL that formalizes participation by nongovernment organizations (NGOs) in national and local budget deliberations has been approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading.

Records of the House Bills and Index Service showed the measure was approved on third reading last March 23.

House Bill No. 3773, or the proposed People’s Participation in Budget Deliberations Act of 2010, seeks to allow qualified NGOs to submit alternative budget proposals or position papers for discussion during public hearings.

Such NGOs — a term the bill used interchangeably with “people’s organizations” and “civil society” — will first have to be accredited with the legislative body in whose deliberations they wish to participate.

They will have to submit their articles of incorporation and by-laws, certificate of registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), certificate of good track record from the Philippine Council for NGO Certification or from the SEC, and audited financial statements for the past three years.

Accredited groups will also gain access to copies of bills filed with and other proposals submitted to the Senate, House of Representatives and local legislative boards and councils.

The bill also entitles accredited NGOs to receive notices of hearings, consultations and calls for reports from these bodies.

Even after a budget has been enacted into law, the same groups will be given access to official documents of the national and local governments to help them monitor disbursement of funds.

“The main thrust of this bill is to democratize the power of the purse,” Deputy Speaker Lorenzo R. Tañada III (4th district, Quezon), author of the bill, said in an interview yesterday.

“Civil society can present their [sic] own findings and experiences with how funded programs work. They will also have the right to make their own proposals — not just for funding allocations in general — but for specific projects as well,” he added.

Mr. Tañada explained that active participation of knowledgeable third-party groups — with their own performance criteria and data — should put officials of all branches and levels of government on their toes.

Sought for comment, Leonor M. Briones, lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, said separately by phone that institutionalization of people’s participation during budget deliberations is important because “the budget is from the taxes of the people.”

“We should have a say on how it will be used,” Ms. Briones stressed.

Social Watch is a network of NGOs that prepares an annual Alternative Budget Initiative and presents it to Congress, but only upon the invitation of the chairmen of the House appropriation and Senate finance committees.

Ms. Briones said her group has been pushing for the passage of the bill since 2006.

A counterpart measure, Senate Bill No. 2186, authored by Senator Teofisto L. Guingona III, has been pending with the Senate committee on finance since September last year.

Senator Franklin M. Drilon, who heads that chamber’s committee on finance, could not be reached immediately for comment.

But in a statement last month, Mr. Drilon said that he will recommend the approval of the measure. — Noemi M. Gonzales

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