#TalkThursday: Beyond Napoles, guarding public funds
MANILA, Philippines – The national government's budget, an intimidating and daunting topic to most, has suddenly taken the spotlight this year.
This follows a series of exposes on how an entrepeneur named Janet Napoles amassed wealth allegedly through pocketing Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), with the help of several lawmakers. Read: 'Madame Jenny' Napoles, woman in the eye of the storm and How NGOs get their hands on the pork barrel.
The controversy told of billions of funds robbed from farmers, scholars, patients and, ultimately, ordinary citizens. It spoke of widespread corruption within the ranks of those who were elected to serve Filipinos.
(Editor's note: Watch the interview here.)
Growing public interest
The reports on the magnitude of wealth bogus NGOs allegedly milked through the pork barrel and other discretionary funds inevitably resulted in public outrage.
With the recognition that they are the primary stakeholders surrounding the issue, Filipinos – affiliated or not – carried their dismay to the streets unified by single call – abolish the pork barrel and punish everyone involved. Read: #ScrapPork rallies still a go despite Aquino's reform plans
On August 26, the #MillionPeopleMarch a citizen-led and social media-powered protest took place in Luneta, with simultaneous movements also spread across and outside the country. With attendees pegged at 80,000-100,000, the event alone was said to be both an offline and online success.
As if following suit, controversies surrounding other discretionary funds and spending mechanisms also emerged.
Legal questions pounded the Disbursement Acceleration Program, a spending mechanism created by the Aquino administration to boost public spending. Proof on how the Malampaya fund was plundered also surfaced.
The public outrage generated by these controversies has triggered one positive side effect: greater public interest in where our money goes. More than ever, the controversies proved and reinforced the significance of exerting vigilance over decisions involving public funds.
Help us sustain public interest and increase awareness over the policies and processes involving the budget.
Rappler's #BudgetWatch, in partnership with the Open Budget Partnership (OBP), brings you a special edition of #TalkThursday.
On December 2, 2013, Monday, Rappler's Maria Ressa talked to Commission on Audit Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan and budget undersecretary Bon Moya to discuss pressing issues such as the Disbursement Acceleration program (DAP), pork barrel, transparency and accountability. Secretary Butch Abad was held up in budget hearings in Congress.
The forum was held at the Columbus Hall, 42nd floor, Discovery Suites, Ortigas.
Let us know other issues involving the national budget that concern you. You can email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading #BudgetWatch or tweet us at @moveph.
Together, let's strengthen government accountability and transparency over public funds. – Rappler.com
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