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House OKs bill on participatory budgeting

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
House OKs bill on participatory budgeting
Last week, lawmakers voted 200-6 to approve House Bill 7407, “An Act Institutionalizing the Participation of Civil Society Organizations in the Preparation and Authorization Process of the Annual National Budget.”
STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has passed on third and final reading a key measure that encourages and institutionalizes the participation of sectors of society in budget deliberations in Congress, which constitutionally holds the power of the purse.

Last week, lawmakers voted 200-6 to approve House Bill 7407, “An Act Institutionalizing the Participation of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the Preparation and Authorization Process of the Annual National Budget.”

“I am hopeful that the counterpart bill in the Senate will be passed soon because it is the aim of the present administration to ensure transparency and accountability in the crafting of the annual budget,” San Jose del Monte City Rep. Florida Robes, the bill’s author, said.

The measure will also make the budgeting process more inclusive and responsive to people’s needs.

“This will provide a mechanism to make sure that people’s organizations participate in the process and give them a voice on how public funds should be spent,” Robes said.

It was her panel, the House committee on people’s participation, that deliberated and approved the bill before its referral to the plenary.

Under the bill, CSOs will be given a chance to be accredited to take part in the budget preparation and deliberations in Congress.

This accreditation gives them the right to participate in the budget preparation of government agencies, constitutional bodies and government-owned and controlled corporations similar to the rights accorded to NGOs in local development councils.

They would be entitled to notices of hearings and receive budget documents as well submit their own alternative budget proposals or position papers.

They may also observe budget deliberations, including the bicameral conference committee meetings, and participate as resource persons.

Any government officer who restrains any CSO from participating in the process will be penalized with a suspension ranging from one to six months or a fine between P30,000 and P100,000, or both.

Budget hearings

Deliberations on the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022 will push through even if Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado has taken a medical leave until Aug. 13.

ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap, chair of the House appropriations committee, gave this assurance, saying the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has a pool of competent personnel who could handle the job well.

“Budget Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie Canda has been designated as the officer-in-charge. She has been with the DBM for quite some time now and she’s very capable. Secretary Wendel is also just one call away,” he told reporters.

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