House okay with open bicam talks on 2014 budget

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

MANILA -- House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. is certain that opening the bicameral conference committee discussions on the proposed 2014 budget to the public will not delay the process of having it ratified before yearend.

"I don't think (it will cause any delay). I think we will be able to pass this on or before, probably on December 18," Belmonte told reporters.

Congress will have its last session on December 18, Wednesday, before it goes on a month-long break until January 19.

"As far as the House is concerned, we are okay to keeping it (bicam) open... I have no objection to that idea," Belmonte said.

A petition published at Change.org by Patricia Tan of the ScrapPork Network, one of the organizers of the Million People March, appealed to leaders of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to open to bicam meetings to the public.

"Unlike the hearings in the Congress and Senate, they have always closed the doors on the public and conducted these 'bicam talks' in secret. This is the public’s money and there is no reason or law that prohibits these meetings from being conducted in the open where horse trading between both houses will be monitored," the petition said.

It is in the bicam where conflicting provisions on the respective proposed budget bills of the House and the Senate are reconciled.

For 2014, the government is asking for the approval of a P2.268-trillion budget.

"Let us demand that the bicam on the budget and all other bills be open to the public. The bicam should be televised and live streamed online. We want to listen and we, the people, especially those civic representatives of battered communities, want to have a say on where our monies go," the petition, which now has more than 3,000 supporters, added.

In a Twitter post this week, Senate finance committee chairman Senator Francis Escudero said the bicam discussion scheduled on December 10 will be open to the public. (Sunnex)

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