Don't Hog the Budget-A A +A
Thursday, September 5, 2013
THE Philippines has been a proud leader in participatory governance as embodied in the Local Government Code. While studying in Germany, I presented the Code's salient points as part of our participatory planning class, the Germans and my Asian and African colleagues were very impressed that the Philippines has institutionalized participation up to the point of determining the proportion of the CSOs in the local development councils.
What has happened now?
Presently there is a breakdown in the participatory mechanisms in our development process. The reputation of developmental NGOs has been besmirched by individuals who knew the grey areas in the bureaucracy. They have corrupted the system which encourages participation. They have warped the essence of participation of NGOs or the civil society organizations (CSOs) in the implementation of government services and projects.
It really makes me angry that billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money have been diverted to their pockets. I hope that karma strikes them now so they experience the hunger and lack of social services that our poor are suffering because of their greed.
Actually, the present administration has impressive innovations in involving the CSOs and POs in the planning and budgeting system for the local government units. The late DILG Secretary Robredo and Sec. Abad have started integrating them by introducing the Bottom Up Budgeting (BUB) project. Two years ago, some cities including Davao City and municipalities were selected to undergo the experiment. It was tedious process because it entailed the participation of the NGOs in selecting projects which will be funded by about P60 million pesos allotted to the city. Since it was a poverty alleviation strategy budget, Davao City concentrated on the top ten barangays with the highest poverty incidence. All these identified projects were then approved by the local city council and consequently funded by the different national agencies. It was tedious in the sense that it needed more coordination work and more orientation on how the government budgeting system works. But it was rewarding because the NGOs now became involved in the planning and budgeting process and hopefully in the implementation and monitoring of the identified projects.
Last year it was again replicated by the Department of Budget and Management, we undertook the same process except this time we gave the CSOs free hand in prioritizing the issues and the projects but still concentrating on the same areas as last year so we can sustain the development projects that we have started in the area to have greater impact in reducing poverty incidence. The local departments and national agencies became more of a review committee to assist in the specifications and estimations on the project costs. One realization of the CSOs was P60 million may be a very big figure for an individual person but it becomes a small amount when we are dealing with projects designed for whole communities and barangays especially when there are hard infrastructures like farm-to-market roads and schools to be built. Another is they now much familiar and forgiving on the bureaucratic processes too.
What am I driving at? Let us take back the PDAF from the Congress and then use the budget to fund projects that are selected by the people and not by the politicians. I think Representative Robredo (widow of Sec. Jessie Robredo) has the right idea when she said that district councils be organized to plan and program the budget allocation of the district itself.
Let the legislators concentrate on doing their jobs of making laws. I still would suggest that they be given some funds just enough to support their consultative processes with their constituents. This has to have strict regulations to ensure that these are really used for consultation not for advertisements or tv shows that are just one-way communication and can never be defined as consultation. Maybe next year, we can see more community meetings in covered courts where the Representative will exchange views with their constituents on national issues to determine what the legislator's vote in Congress should be.
I hope that by next year, the PDAF will be converted into a budget designed to enhance participation of the people. Let the people - genuine people's organizations and NGOs, decide and prioritize where it should be used. Let us not allow the PDAF to be a three year campaign fund of legislators. Let us help them do their jobs by diverting their attention from project identification and funding to making policies and laws that will serve our country.
Out of this scandalously issue, we hope that better mechanisms can be developed to return to the straight path of genuine people's development.
Hasta la Victoria Siempre!
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 05, 2013.