MANILA, Philippines – “We want to have a say on where our monies go.”
A petition to make the bicameral conference on the 2014 budget public is circulating online. Peachy Tan, a member of the Scrap Pork Network, started the petition to ensure greater transparency in finalizing next year’s budget.
“If things are done in secret, it seems like you’re hiding something,” Tan said in an interview with Rappler.
Public interest in the budget process increased after a series of reports on the alleged misuse of public funds by lawmakers in collusion with private individuals. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional, following public clamor to scrap the pork barrel system. (Read: AS IT HAPPENS: Million People March #ScrapPork Rally at Ayala)
Senate finance committee chairperson Francis “Chiz” Escudero said they are planning to conduct a bicameral conference day on Dec 9, 2013.
“We know from recent history that the bicam ‘hearings’ are where most poison pill or controversial insertions into bills are introduced,” the petition said. Specifically, the petition includes conditions to televise and livestream the bicameral meeting.
As of December 4, the petition has already collected around 2,300 signatures.
House appropriations committee head Isidro Ungab said they welcome the idea.
“No problem. I have already made a statement that there is nothing to hide. We are open to the idea for purposes of transparency,” Ungab said.
Meanwhile, Escudero had already filed a resolution aimed at making the bicameral conference committee meeting public.
The Senate has approved the P2.264 trillion budget, P100 billion of which is allocated for disaster and rehabilitaton projects. The House of Representatives, for its part, approved a P2.268-trillion budget.
“We are having pre-bicam [meetings] to speed up the bicam. Hopefully the bicam will be one day only,” he said in an interview with dwIZ on Saturday, November 30.
During the meeting, the committee is tasked to resolve contentious provisions of the two versions of the General Approriations Bill (GAB) passed by both chambers of Congress.
It will be attended by a committee composed of members from the upper and lower house. Traditionally, bicameral meetings are conducted behind closed doors. – with a report from Angela Casauay/Rappler.com