Pro-FOI group to join protest vs pork barrel abuse-A A +A
Sunday, August 25, 2013
MANILA -- A group actively pushing for the enactment of a freedom of information (FOI) law on Sunday pledged support to the protest against the misuse of priority development assistance funds (PDAF) dubbed the Million People March.
The Right to Know Right Now! Coalition said it will assemble at the Liwasang Bonifacio at 9 a.m. Monday before it marches to Luneta by 10 a.m. to join the people’s gathering.
The same group earlier filed their own version of the FOI bill called the "People's Freedom of Information Act of 2013" before the House of Representatives and the Senate. The measure was filed under the indirect initiative provision of Republic Act (RA) 6735 or The Initiative and Referendum Act.
In a statement, the group noted the “glaring absence” of the enactment of an FOI law in the measures proposed by President Benigno Aquino III to strictly monitor the allocation and use of PDAF.
“True, the measures reiterate the ongoing program of proactive disclosure by the DBM on the budget, but we emphasize that such proactive transparency, largely limited to general or aggregate allocations and spending or listing of projects, is not enough to allow citizens to get to the bottom of scams. While these provide leads, we need to complement them with request-based access to information to be able to dig deeper,” the group said.
Aquino earlier said that “it’s time to abolish the PDAF” following the Commission on Audit (COA) special report that close to 200 lawmakers seated in Congress from 2007 to 2009 misused billions of pork barrel funds.
The P27-billion PDAF allocation will therefore be deleted from the proposed 2014 budget submitted to Congress. Instead, projects proposed by lawmakers will be earmarked as line items under the national expenditure program.
The Right to Know Right Now! Coalition stressed the need for an FOI law as the accountability mechanisms underscored by the President in abolishing the PDAF only covers 1.5 percent of the total government budget.
“How can we be assured that no such breakdown happens in the bigger 98.5 percent of the budget?” they said.
“We reiterate our resolve to fight, alongside legislators who are showing independence and similar commitment, for the passage of an effective and empowering FOI law. This is our contribution to the various citizens' initiatives to push for the accountability of all those involved in the plunder, and to finally put a stop to the budget scams, whether in PDAF or elsewhere, that have bled our public resources,” the group added.
The 15th Congress failed to pass the FOI bill failed after the House of Representatives lacked time to tackle and pass the proposed law.
The Aquino administration said it supports the passage of the FOI bill although the ruling Liberal Party (LP) has not made a definite stand on the proposal. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)