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Philippine President told: Re-energize the campaign for reforms

Philippines: As President Benigno Simeon Aquino III prepares to deliver his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA), Akbayan Party-list urged him to "re-energize the campaign for reforms" by carrying out "deeper and broader institutional changes" in his last two years in office.
HANGING IN THE BALANCE

"The credibility and momentum of the reform thrust of the Aquino administration hangs in the balance. Partly because the enemies of reform have to some extent succeeded in muddling the narrative of the people's anti-corruption campaign and partly because we are now straining against the boundaries of a reform campaign still constrained by the limits of a traditional political system," Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said.

Bello said that the best way to re-energize the campaign for reforms is to pursue strategic changes beyond the expectations provided by the political system.

"President Aquino should use this year's SONA as an occasion to re-energize the forces of reform by rallying the people under the banner of strategic and structural changes. By pushing for deeper institutional reforms, he will disarm his critics and isolate the noisy few howling once again for impeachment," Bello said.

Akbayan said that some of the reforms that the Aquino administration must pursue in its last two years are: 1) the completion of land reform under CARPER, 2) the passage of the FoI bill, 3) implementation of legislative-led budget reform measures as a way forward to the DAP issue, 4) passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, 5) major restructuring of the energy sector by repealing or radically amending the EPIRA Law, 6) enactment of "green laws" such as the Alternative Mineral Management Bill and the National Land Use Act, 7) adoption of the political party reform act, 8) pushing for the workers' security of tenure law, and 9) prosecution of all those who squandered the public's fund regardless of political color and affiliation.

NEW ECONOMIC PARADIGM

Bello added that the Aquino administration must use its remaining years to help in laying down a new paradigm for sustained development.

"Continuous adherence to the old neoliberal model can erode the gains that the administration has made in the last four years, probably much faster than the schemes mounted by the detained plunderers to undermine President Aquino. The President still enjoys a popular mandate, and that political capital must be used to mobilize institutions to the path of a new and progressive macroeconomic model," Bello explained.

"LAST TWO MINUTES"

The veteran Akbayan lawmaker said Aquino is in the "last two minutes of his game."

"To use an analogy from basketball, President Aquino's administration is entering the crucial last two minutes of the game. Being the team captain, President Aquino must step up his game; rally the people to a 'full court press' to defend and further their gains, make best use of the remaining time, and deliver victory for the people," Bello said.

BUDGET REFORMS

For his part, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said that President Aquino can provide fresh impetus to the people's struggle for reforms by finding ways to move forward on the issue of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

"We are glad that the President has filed a motion for reconsideration (MR) on the Supreme Court ruling on the DAP. This action clearly demonstrated his commitment to the constitutional route and legal-institutional framework of checks and balances. However, the solution to the current debate on the proper extent of the Executive's power over the budget lies in legislation. Congress holds the power of the purse, and it is Congress that must be mobilized to lay down clearer and stronger rules defining Executive power over the budget," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said that while, in his view, current laws "very explicitly" gave the President the authority to implement a program such as DAP, the SC decision made it apparent that there is a need for clarifying legislation.

Gutierrez specifically called for the enactment of the 1) Savings and Augmentation Bill, 2) Budget Impoundment Control Bill, and 3) Budget Reform Bill.

The Savings and Augmentation Bill or House Bill No. 2256 seeks to clearly define the scope of "savings" and provide a definitive process for the use of the same in augmenting other government programs.

On the other hand, the Budget Impoundment Control bill or HB 2257 aims to ensure that proper limits and procedures are in place in the exercise of the president's authority to defer, rescind and reserve expenditures already approved by Congress.

The Budget Reform Bill or HB 3128 was filed to amend and/or repeal certain provisions of the country's budget system, as provided in Book VI of Executive Order No. 292, or 'The Revised Administrative Code of 1987,' whose budget provisions figured prominently in the current discussions on DAP.

"The DAP debate is obviously being used by some quarters to deflect attention from the plunder charges filed against the detained lawmakers over the multi-billion Napoles pork barrel scam. However, we believe one of the best ways to counter this attempt at obfuscation is for President Aquino to support the passage of the important budget reform bills. President Aquino must convert their tool of obfuscation into a tool for transformation," Gutierrez said.

SHORT-TERM SACRIFICE FOR LONG-TERM GAIN

Gutierrez said that there is a strong need for President Aquino to reform and regulate the Executive's fiscal powers under his term.

"President Aquino must pursue reforms even if, in the short term, it may appear to diminish his own fiscal authority. This will go hand in hand with the other important budget reforms his government has made through the years such as the bottom-up budgeting, early enactment of the national budget, and disaggregation of lump sum funds. This exercise in institutional self-limitation is necessary to ensure that the public's fund will be protected and secured in the future from those who would seek to abuse it for their own gain," Gutierrez said.

"As they say, to move forward it is sometimes necessary to take a step back. In the same manner, we hope President Aquino will realize that in putting in place clearer and stronger safeguards on the Executive's fiscal powers, he is actually making himself more powerful in the eyes of the people and is taking a firm and decisive move to secure his place in history as a true champion of reform," Gutierrez concluded. ###

 https://akbayan.org.ph

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Akbayan urges Aquino to include budget reform issue in SONA

With only three days remaining until President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA), a lawmaker and several members of Akbayan Partylist on Saturday hung a large banner over Philcoa footbridge in Quezon City, to highlight the urgent need for budget reform and to urge the President to issue a message supporting the passage of several budget reform bills during his address before Congress.

Led by Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, the banner-hanging activity took place in Philcoa at Commonwealth Avenue, which is the main road that leads to the House of Representatives at Batasan Hills where the SONA will be conducted.

The banner with the slogan "Sagot sa DAP: Budget Reform Bills, Ipasa!," was predominantly displayed at a strategic location where the President and majority of the lawmakers could easily catch a glimpse of the signage while on their way to the SONA.

"We hope the President will mention the issue of budget reform in his SONA, and to issue a message to the lawmakers that certifies as urgent a set of budget reform bills filed by Akbayan, highlighting the urgent need for their swift and immediate passage," Gutierrez said.


Citing the Supreme Court decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Gutierrez said that the enactment of these legislations will be the appropriate response on the issue of DAP, as it establishes a "clearer and stronger" rules on the proper extent of Executive's power over the budget.

"From the recent Supreme Court decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the Court has uncovered some weaknesses in our existing rules governing the power of the Executive over the budget that must be addressed by Congress through a new set of budget reform legislations," he said.

"Moving forward, these pieces of budget reform bills would lay down the necessary framework to provide clearer and stronger rules on the extent of executive's power over the budget," the lawmaker said.

Gutierrez specifically called for the enactment of the 1) Savings and Augmentation Bill, 2) Budget Impoundment Control Bill, and 3) Budget Reform Bill.

Gutierrez said the Savings and Augmentation Bill or House Bill No. 2256 seeks to clearly define the scope of "savings" and provide a definitive process for the use of the same in augmenting other government programs.

On the other hand, the Budget Impoundment Control bill or HB 2257 aims to ensure that proper limits and procedures are in place in the exercise of the president's authority to defer, rescind and reserve expenditures already approved by Congress. This addresses the need to guarantee that appropriations are utilized based on the work and financial plans of agencies and that these are automatically released through advices of allotment.

To clinch the overall reform of the budget system, the Budget Reform Bill or HB 3128 was filed to amend and/or repeal certain provisions of the country's budget system, as provided in Book VI of Executive Order No. 292, or 'The Revised Administrative Code of 1987,' whose budget provisions figured prominently in the current discussions on DAP.

Gutierrez, who is also a former University of the Philippines law professor and Director of the UP Institute of Human Rights, explained that Book VI of Executive Order No. 292, or 'The Revised Administrative Code of 1987,' is the primary implementing law on the powers and limitations of both the Executive and Legislative in the preparation, authorization and implementation of the national budget. He further explained the need to revisit this old law to updating it to meet the demands of the present time.

"The government, both from the Executive and Congress, must presently take the necessary steps to pursue these budget reform bills that could strike a balance between fiscal flexibilty and a guarantee of accountability," the lawmaker said.

"We hope this call will reflect in the President's SONA," Gutierrez concluded.###

 https://akbayan.org.ph

_________________________________________________________________________

Akbayan pushes for legislative solution to Palace-SC impasse, proposes Congress-led budget reform

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez on Wednesday urged his colleagues in Congress to work for the swift and immediate passage of a set of budget reform bills that would clarify and strengthen existing rules governing Executive control over the budget, as a way forward from the impasse arising from the recent Supreme Court decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

"The solution to the current debate on the proper extent of the Executive's power over the budget lies in legislation. Congress holds the power of the purse, and it is Congress that must lay down clearer and stronger rules defining Executive power over the budget," Gutierrez said.

The lawmaker emphasized that the DAP decision was largely anchored on existing provisions of various laws and not the Constitution.


"As such, and as acknowledged in the separate opinion of Justice Del Castillo, the weakness of our existing laws governing the budget must be addressed by Congress. The Court has laid bare the shortcomings of the law, Congress must now take up the challenge of bolstering it through new legislation," he explained.

He added that while, in his view, current laws "very explicitly" gave the President the authority to implement a program such as DAP, the SC decision made it apparent that there is a need for clarifying legislation.

Gutierrez specifically called for the enactment of the 1) Savings and Augmentation Bill, 2) Budget Impoundment Control Bill, and 3) Budget Reform Bill.

Gutierrez said the Savings and Augmentation Bill or House Bill No. 2256 seeks to clearly define the scope of "savings" and provide a definitive process for the use of the same in augmenting other government programs.

On the other hand, the Budget Impoundment Control bill or HB 2257 aims to ensure that proper limits and procedures are in place in the exercise of the president's authority to defer, rescind and reserve expenditures already approved by Congress. This addresses the need to guarantee that appropriations are utilized based on the work and financial plans of agencies and that these are automatically released through advices of allotment.

To clinch the overall reform of the budget system, the Budget Reform Bill or HB 3128 was filed to amend and/or repeal certain provisions of the country's budget system, as provided in Book VI of Executive Order No. 292, or 'The Revised Administrative Code of 1987,' whose budget provisions figured prominently in the current discussions on DAP.

Gutierrez, who is also a former University of the Philippines law professor and Director of the UP Institute of Human Rights, explained that Book VI of Executive Order No. 292, or 'The Revised Administrative Code of 1987,' is the primary implementing law on the powers and limitations of both the Executive and Legislative in the preparation, authorization and implementation of the national budget.

"The Revised Administrative Code borrows heavily from the Presidential Decree No. 1177 or the 'Budget Reform Decree of 1977', and it is well past time that Congress reviewed this old law with a view to updating it to meet the needs of contemporary times," he further explained.

Gutierrez emphasized that the key to resolving the apparent impasse on DAP and restoring balance in the government is the passage of the three budget reform bills.

"No less than a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach is needed in order to achieve the desirable balance between fiscal flexibility and a guarantee of accountability," he said.

"Congress must presently take these necessary steps to ensure that the budget process is truly reflective of the spirit and noble intent of the Constitution, and that of the will of the people," Gutierrez concluded.###

 https://akbayan.org.ph

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