FOI IS MEASURE NO. 18 IN PALACE 26 PRIORITY BILLS; NOW IN PRIORITY LIST SUBMITTED TO CONGRESS 

He might have omitted it in his State of the Nation Address (Sona), but President Aquino has included the freedom of information (FOI) bill in the list of priority measures he wants Congress to pass within his final two years in office. The FOI bill, which would mandate the disclosure of public records, is priority No. 18 on the list of at least 26 “priority measures.” Topping the list is the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), based on the memorandum that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. sent to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte. Malacañang on Wednesday released copies of the May 30 memorandum, including a three-page attachment elaborating on the contributions of at least 26 measures to specific areas of governance.
“These are legislative bills that intend to achieve inclusive growth,” Ochoa wrote. “More particularly, they are projected to result in a high, sustained and broad-based economic growth that generates mass employment and draws the majority of the people into the economic and social mainstream, reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

Aquino cited at least six measures in his Sona, including the uniformed personnel pension reform bill, supplemental budget for 2014, national budget bill and a joint resolution to clarify certain “definitions and concepts” in the Supreme Court decision against his Disbursement Acceleration Program. Support for FOI --The President also mentioned the need to extend the notices of coverage for land distribution. Lawmakers, at the prodding of Speaker Belmonte, on Wednesday expressed support for the passage of the FOI bill. In his speech at the opening of Congress’ second regular session on Monday, hours before the Sona, the Speaker pushed for the passage of an FOI law in the spirit of Section 7, Article 3 of the Constitution recognizing the right of the people to information on matters of public concern. “We must craft a viable FOI law to promote greater transparency and strengthen accountability in government, without unduly restricting the latitude of options for government action in the delivery of services to the public and in responding expeditiously to the needs of our people,” Belmonte said. Responding to Belmonte’s call, a number of members of the House of Representatives expressed support for the FOI bill. The Senate has passed its version of the FOI bill but it remains pending in the House. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) Abad on DAP: Congress must clearly define term ‘savings’ 

PHOTO: Government employees tie black and red ribbons to the fence of the National Housing Authority office in Quezon City to press for an accounting of the Disbursement Accelaration Program (DAP) and the more than P500-billion lump sum appropriation in the 2015 national budget. Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad on Friday said Congress needs a clear definition of the term “savings” in the proposed national budget to settle the controversy surrounding the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, earlier said a joint resolution on the definition of savings is expected to be approved in the next two months so it would have a retroactive effect on the savings accumulated in 2014. The General Appropriations Acts from 2011 to 2013, when the DAP was implemented, defined savings as funds that are “still available after the completion, or final discontinuance, or abandonment of the work, activity or purpose for which the appropriation is authorized.” Abad said the executive may no longer ask for a supplemental budget for 2014 if it would be able to clarify the definition of savings in this year’s national budget. “If Congress is able to pass the law in August and make it retroactive, we may not ask for supplemental budget,” he told reporters.

ALSO: Palace, Congress are cautioned against redefining 'savings' 

“It would be best if we just let the High Court define the parameters and definition of savings. It’s time-consuming for Congress to do that.” Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano stressed this yesterday as he cautioned Malacañang and Congress against redefining “savings,” saying it is best for the executive to leave the task of defining savings to the Supreme Court (SC). But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda explained that Congress has the mandate to define savings since the term does not have definition in the Constitution. “The definition of savings is not found in the Constitution. Rather, savings is defined in the National Budget law which was passed by Congress. Therefore, Congress provided the statutory definition of savings,” Lacierda said. Cayetano warned that any moves to circumvent the SC ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds would already be done “in bad faith” by the government. The SC, he said, has already decided four acts under the DAP – which includes cross-border transfers and the utilization of savings even without Congress approval – as unconstitutional.

Cayetano clarified, however, he is not against redefining savings, but this should be done in compliance with the SC ruling. Lacierda said the proposed redefinition of savings in the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015 is not in any way a defiance of the SC. POWER OF THE PURSE --“Malacañang should also respect the fact that the power of the purse belongs to Congress,” he said. He said Congress, which has been tasked by President Aquino to pass a joint resolution, should do everything to help Malacañang in its efforts to review the budget process. “But Congress should do everything to help Malacañang but it should not abandon its mandate which is to exercise the power of the purse,” he said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: It’s best to have law on savings – Palace 

Having a specific law on savings is still the best way to ensure such funds are readily made available for projects without violating the Constitution, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday. In an interview over radio dzRB, Valte said “it would be good to have legislative backup when it comes to a certain definition,” since “jurisprudence changes.” She was referring to the Supreme Court’s exhortation against the use of savings in the budget for projects or items not specified in the General Appropriations Act. The SC’s position is contained in its July 1 ruling against the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The SC is still deliberating on a motion for reconsideration filed by Malacañang. “It goes without saying that it (definition of savings) has to be consistent with our Constitution but in the Constitution there is no definition of savings. So it’s a good move actually (to have a law on savings) and it’s in keeping with the powers of Congress that is vested on them by the Constitution,” Valte said. “So legislate either clarifications or definitions into our existing law.”

Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said Malacañang should clarify with the SC what the latter meant by savings to prevent Congress from mistakenly contravening its ruling. Cayetano urged the executive department to file an urgent motion for the SC to clarify the “parameters” of savings in its ruling voiding some parts of the DAP. “If I were President and I control both chambers, I would include in the MR (motion for reconsideration) that the Supreme Court clarify the definition of savings. Let the Supreme Court do it,” he told reporters in a briefing. But Valte said Cayetano’s point was only for the SC to clarify the definition of savings and that legislation on the matter is still the best option. “Because as we’ve seen before, when it comes to decided cases of the Supreme Court, it depends (because) the justices also change their minds... because of there is always a change in composition of the Supreme Court,” she said. “And to lawyers like me, we can see that in the history of the cases that have been decided by the Supreme Court.”  Changing ruling * READ MORE...

ALSO: DAP clone in 2015 budget?

Is the government resurrecting the constitutionally-challenged Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)? This cropped up yesterday after Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon assailed a cloudy provision in the proposed 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which he described as a “clone” of the DAP. Ridon said this DAP-like mechanism is the so-called Grassroots Participatory Budgeting (GPB) process, which would cost taxpayers P20.9 billion based on the proposed P2.606-trilion national budget for 2015. He said the amount is higher by almost P1 billion compared to last year’s allocation. The GPB, formerly referred to as Bottom-up Budgeting, allows the national government to fund various pet projects in chosen local government units (LGUs) around the country, Ridon said. “This P20.9 billion budget for LGU projects is on top of the P501-billion “Special Purpose Funds” for 2015, which includes a P2.9-billion Local Government Support Fund,” he said.

Within the GBP is a provision that enables LGUs to cancel and replace projects already indicated in the annual GAA or national budget, Ridon, a member of the militant Makabayan bloc in Congress, disclosed. Ridon had earlier slammed the GPB for being “highly vulnerable to corruption.” * READ MORE...

ALSO Manila Standard opinion: The rape of Congress

Perhaps it’s true, as one forgotten politician once said, that if rape is unavoidable, then the only recourse is to enjoy it. And when one Supreme Court justice wrote recently that he was against the “rape” of Congress through President Noynoy Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, maybe he should have asked our legislators first if they were actually allowing and enjoying their violation. My current favorite post-State of the Nation Address story is about how, after Aquino gave his “It’s All About Me” speech, nearly all of the members of the Lower House left the Batasan, leaving only 28 congressmen in the cavernous hall.

That’s less than 10 percent of the entire House’s 290-strong membership—and definitely below the majority required for a quorum. The upshot of the mass desertion at the Batasan was that the first regular session day could not even proceed because there was practically no one to conduct the House’s business. And yet, the leaders of the chamber present even tried to call the House to order. Thankfully, the session never took place after some of the remaining lawmakers protested the quorum lack. It was just another regular session day wasted—and the first in the reopened 16th Congress.

Of course, the members of the House’s progressive bloc, who walked out of the hall right before Aquino gave his speech in protest, cannot be included in the vast majority of our “non-working” congressmen who should take the blame for the aborted session. After they had changed out of their symbolic peach-colored outfits, the militant lawmakers joined the anti-Aquino protesters along Congressional Avenue, to be hosed down by the hundreds of policemen who were preventing them from marching on the Batasan behind concrete traffic blocks and razor-sharp concertina wire.

But how shall we describe Rep. Jules Ledesma, that habitual House absentee, who did not even attend Congress’ opening but who sent his actress wife to parade down the red carpet to display her physical gifts and her expensive designer gown? Is this really why we have a Congress still? I wonder how House Speaker and Aquino loyalist Feliciano Belmonte, when his term ends, will report (as speakers do) what he did during his leadership. Will Belmonte ever admit that the House routinely cannot even muster a quorum and that, despite the free catered food and the cost of the air-conditioning (to say nothing of the billions required to staff and operate Congress year after year), the speaker can’t even get his fellow lawmakers to show up for work? * READ MORE...


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FOI measure No. 18 in Palace’s 26 priority bills

MANILA, AUGUST 4, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Christian V. Esguerra, DJ Yap - He might have omitted it in his State of the Nation Address (Sona), but President Aquino has included the freedom of information (FOI) bill in the list of priority measures he wants Congress to pass within his final two years in office.

The FOI bill, which would mandate the disclosure of public records, is priority No. 18 on the list of at least 26 “priority measures.” Topping the list is the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), based on the memorandum that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. sent to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.

Malacañang on Wednesday released copies of the May 30 memorandum, including a three-page attachment elaborating on the contributions of at least 26 measures to specific areas of governance.

“These are legislative bills that intend to achieve inclusive growth,” Ochoa wrote.

“More particularly, they are projected to result in a high, sustained and broad-based economic growth that generates mass employment and draws the majority of the people into the economic and social mainstream, reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

Aquino cited at least six measures in his Sona, including the uniformed personnel pension reform bill, supplemental budget for 2014, national budget bill and a joint resolution to clarify certain “definitions and concepts” in the Supreme Court decision against his Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Support for FOI

The President also mentioned the need to extend the notices of coverage for land distribution.

Lawmakers, at the prodding of Speaker Belmonte, on Wednesday expressed support for the passage of the FOI bill.

In his speech at the opening of Congress’ second regular session on Monday, hours before the Sona, the Speaker pushed for the passage of an FOI law in the spirit of Section 7, Article 3 of the Constitution recognizing the right of the people to information on matters of public concern.

“We must craft a viable FOI law to promote greater transparency and strengthen accountability in government, without unduly restricting the latitude of options for government action in the delivery of services to the public and in responding expeditiously to the needs of our people,” Belmonte said.

Responding to Belmonte’s call, a number of members of the House of Representatives expressed support for the FOI bill.

The Senate has passed its version of the FOI bill but it remains pending in the House.

* A big chance

In a statement, House Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao said that with the Speaker himself making a special pitch, there was now “a big chance” the FOI bill would pass this session.

Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, chair of the committee on good government and public accountability, also welcomed the Speaker’s commitment to prioritize the FOI bill.

Rodriguez said he filed the first FOI bill in the eighth Congress because of his experience with the military then.

Abakada Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of the minority bloc, said it was high time the FOI bill was enacted into law.

“The FOI is one law which should have been passed a long time ago and should have been one of the priorities under this administration of daang matuwid (straight path),” De la Cruz said.

Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, author of one of the FOI bills, thanked the Speaker for his support for the FOI bill in his opening speech. “As a major proponent of this bill, I really hope we can make this a law before the end of the year,” he said.

He said public officials as public servants were endowed with power but have the responsibility to be accountable at all times to the people whom they owe their very own title and position.

BBL draft

The Palace has yet to submit a draft of the BBL, more than two months since the original deadline had lapsed. Both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front panels were still trying to settle disagreements over certain items in the draft prepared by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Acknowledging the delay, the President, in his Sona, sought Congress’ “understanding,” saying “it is important to scrutinize each provision we lay down.”

The target is to pass the BBL within the year to eventually pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous region in Mindanao.

Other priority measures

Also high on the Palace list was the proposed Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act. A version filed by Senate President Franklin Drilon seeks to include a “Tax Expenditure Account in the annual national budget to reflect the amount of tax incentives granted to private individuals and corporations to foster transparency in the present system of granting tax incentives.”

Aquino’s priority bills included those seeking to amend the build-operate-transfer law, cabotage law, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas charter, Human Security Act, Ombudsman Act and the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act.

Other list of priorities

The President also sought amendments to the law facilitating the “acquisition of right-of-way, site or location for national government infrastructure projects.”

He also wanted to remove “investment restrictions in specific laws cited in the Foreign Investment Negative List.”

Other measures on the President’s list of priorities were proposals for a competition law, whistle-blowers act, revision of the criminal code, delineation of the Philippine maritime zone, act instituting reforms in land administration, national land use act, delineation of specific forest limits of public domain and the water sector reform act.

Also deemed priority legislation were a civil service reform bill, a proposed magna carta of the poor, a proposed act protecting the rights of internally displaced persons and a strategic trade management bill.

Abad: Congress must clearly define ‘savings’ August 1, 2014 10:34 pm
by RITCHIE A. HORARIO REPORTER


Government employees tie black and red ribbons to the fence of the National Housing Authority office in Quezon City to press for an accounting of the Disbursement Accelaration Program (DAP) and the more than P500-billion lump sum appropriation in the 2015 national budget. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN

Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad on Friday said Congress needs a clear definition of the term “savings” in the proposed national budget to settle the controversy surrounding the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, earlier said a joint resolution on the definition of savings is expected to be approved in the next two months so it would have a retroactive effect on the savings accumulated in 2014.

The General Appropriations Acts from 2011 to 2013, when the DAP was implemented, defined savings as funds that are “still available after the completion, or final discontinuance, or abandonment of the work, activity or purpose for which the appropriation is authorized.”

Abad said the executive may no longer ask for a supplemental budget for 2014 if it would be able to clarify the definition of savings in this year’s national budget.

“If Congress is able to pass the law in August and make it retroactive, we may not ask for supplemental budget,” he told reporters.

* The supplemental budget, Abad explained, will supposedly be used to finish the DAP-funded projects that remain pending after the Supreme Court ruled parts of the program unconstitutional.

He said Congress must clarify three issues related to savings in light of the Supreme Court decision.

“The first issue has to do with the definition of savings which of course we have in the national budget, as well as the timing of the declaration of savings,” Abad noted.

The second issue has to do with the activation of the standby or the program appropriations and the timing of the declaration of the excess or new sources of revenue that are needed to operate the standby appropriations.

The third is about the definition of “item of appropriation” as distinguished from allotment class or objects of expenditure.

After the Supreme Court made the ruling on the DAP, Malacañang revised the definition of savings in the proposed 2015 national budget.

Savings now means portions of allocations that “have not been released or obligated due to discontinuance or abandonment of a program, activity or project for justifiable causes, at any time during the validity of the appropriations.”

Abad said even if Congress passes the joint resolution on the definition of savings, the Supreme Court should also clarify its ruling.

“It is not enough that Congress passes the law, the SC also has to strike it out or simply say that its ruling on DAP is considered only as opinion,” he added.

Abad maintained that the DAP was introduced by the government in 2011 as a reform measure to counter government underspending, which was a result of inherent weaknesses in the budgeting systems.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Palace, Congress cautioned against redefining savings by Hannah Torregoza August 2, 2014


PALACE SUBMITS 2015 BUDGET TO CONGRESS

“It would be best if we just let the High Court define the parameters and definition of savings. It’s time-consuming for Congress to do that.”

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano stressed this yesterday as he cautioned Malacañang and Congress against redefining “savings,” saying it is best for the executive to leave the task of defining savings to the Supreme Court (SC).

But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda explained that Congress has the mandate to define savings since the term does not have definition in the Constitution.

“The definition of savings is not found in the Constitution. Rather, savings is defined in the National Budget law which was passed by Congress. Therefore, Congress provided the statutory definition of savings,” Lacierda said.

Cayetano warned that any moves to circumvent the SC ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds would already be done “in bad faith” by the government.

The SC, he said, has already decided four acts under the DAP – which includes cross-border transfers and the utilization of savings even without Congress approval – as unconstitutional.

Cayetano clarified, however, he is not against redefining savings, but this should be done in compliance with the SC ruling.

Lacierda said the proposed redefinition of savings in the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015 is not in any way a defiance of the SC.

POWER OF THE PURSE

“Malacañang should also respect the fact that the power of the purse belongs to Congress,” he said.

He said Congress, which has been tasked by President Aquino to pass a joint resolution, should do everything to help Malacañang in its efforts to review the budget process.

“But Congress should do everything to help Malacañang but it should not abandon its mandate which is to exercise the power of the purse,” he said.

* Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Senate Finance Committee chairman, had earlier vowed that lawmakers, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, will ensure that the budget and the joint resolution would be compliant with the SC ruling.

Senate President Franklin Drilon had earlier said Congress has the power to review and redefine savings under the Constitution.

“I hope Malacañang should not insist on the task of identifying projects,” he said.

“Congress should pass a joint resolution that is compliant with the SC ruling,” he said, echoing Escudero’s call.

Instead of asking Congress to redefine savings, Cayetano said Malacañang should pass a motion for clarification to allow the SC to come up with its own definition of savings.

“Definition of savings alone is not abusive. It depends on how it is defined,” Cayetano said.

“I don’t think defining savings alone is sufficient, you have to correlate that with augmentation and other things in the budget,” he said.

He warned that any attempt to go around the SC decision may worsen the public’s ire and negative perception on the Aquino administration.

“My caveat is that the patience of the people are wearing thin,” he said.

“If we appear to circumvent the law, we will be where we are when the PDAF and the DAP started,” the majority leader said.

Cayetano said he sees no need for Congress to redefine savings. “We can pass a law that is compliant with the SC ruling,” he said. (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling)

FROM PHILSTAR

It’s best to have law on savings – Palace By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 3, 2014 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Having a specific law on savings is still the best way to ensure such funds are readily made available for projects without violating the Constitution, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday.

In an interview over radio dzRB, Valte said “it would be good to have legislative backup when it comes to a certain definition,” since “jurisprudence changes.” She was referring to the Supreme Court’s exhortation against the use of savings in the budget for projects or items not specified in the General Appropriations Act.

The SC’s position is contained in its July 1 ruling against the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The SC is still deliberating on a motion for reconsideration filed by Malacañang.

“It goes without saying that it (definition of savings) has to be consistent with our Constitution but in the Constitution there is no definition of savings. So it’s a good move actually (to have a law on savings) and it’s in keeping with the powers of Congress that is vested on them by the Constitution,” Valte said. “So legislate either clarifications or definitions into our existing law.”

Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said Malacañang should clarify with the SC what the latter meant by savings to prevent Congress from mistakenly contravening its ruling.

Cayetano urged the executive department to file an urgent motion for the SC to clarify the “parameters” of savings in its ruling voiding some parts of the DAP.

“If I were President and I control both chambers, I would include in the MR (motion for reconsideration) that the Supreme Court clarify the definition of savings. Let the Supreme Court do it,” he told reporters in a briefing.

But Valte said Cayetano’s point was only for the SC to clarify the definition of savings and that legislation on the matter is still the best option.

“Because as we’ve seen before, when it comes to decided cases of the Supreme Court, it depends (because) the justices also change their minds... because of there is always a change in composition of the Supreme Court,” she said. “And to lawyers like me, we can see that in the history of the cases that have been decided by the Supreme Court.”

Changing ruling

*  Valte said the best example would be the case of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, which the SC had ruled as constitutional in the past.

“But last year, it was reversed,” Valte said. “I understand that there are several concerns raised about that but it is the power of Congress to define laws; that is really their function. And to avoid such kind of an issue moving forward, legislation is one of the best steps to address any gaps or any gray areas in our law,” Valte said.

“There are a lot of us still waiting also for the resolution of the motion for reconsideration. So perhaps when it comes then more or less there will be settling of the issue,” she said.

She said that while the motion for reconsideration is being deliberated upon, “the best that government can do is to continue to explain when called for it and to continue to put out information that would support our claims on the DAP.”

President Aquino wants the two chambers of Congress to work on either a law or a joint resolution that would allow him to impound funds from slow-moving projects, classify these as savings and use them for purposes at his discretion.

The President wants to impound “savings” as early as the end of the first semester, or midyear – a practice implemented under his DAP

And if an administration ally, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone of the Liberal Party, would have his way, funds should be classified as savings as often as every three months, as he filed Bill 4770 for this purpose.

The proposal echoes that of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who reportedly wants savings declared on a quarterly basis.

It prompted a party-list congressman to remark that the President wanted to legalize DAP and clip Congress’ power of the purse.

The 13 SC justices, in their unanimous 92-page ruling that struck down the DAP, made it clear that since Congress appropriated funds for specific projects of government agencies for utilization within an entire year, no savings should be declared until that period was over.

“The executive could not circumvent this provision by declaring unreleased appropriations and unobligated allotments as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year,” Justice Lucas Bersamin, who wrote the SC ruling, warned in the ruling.

Bersamin was referring to Section 28, Chapter 4, Book 6 of the Administrative Code. A portion of the provision, titled “Reversion of Unexpended Balances of Appropriations, Continuing Appropriations,” clearly prohibits the use of unused funds in advance.

But Aquino, in his 2015 budget message to Congress, stands by the voided DAP.

“We saw it fit to clarify the definition and use of savings and augmentation in light of our policy to push agencies to spend their budgets, or else to lose it,” he declared in his budget message.

“Given that this proposed budget will be valid for one year, it will be counter-intuitive to allow the declaration of savings and augmentation of deficient budget items only at the end of the year,” Aquino said.

No redefinition please

For Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, the House of Representatives and the Senate do not have to redefine savings and risk another reversal in the Supreme Court.

He disagreed with his colleagues in the ruling Liberal Party that Congress could allow the President, the chief justice, Senate president, speaker of the House of Representatives, and heads of constitutional commissions to declare and use savings for their respective offices before the end of every fiscal year.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. holds the view that Congress can define savings, saying there is no such definition in the Constitution.

“Congress does not have to redefine savings. Savings are unspent appropriations at the end of the year,” Castelo said.

“The President can’t declare savings in the middle of the year. Savings at the end of any fiscal year can only be spent through an appropriation measure duly approved by Congress,” he said.

He said the Supreme Court, in striking certain practices under the DAP as unconstitutional, ruled that savings could only be determined at the end of the budget year.

Castelo recalled that President Aquino sought authorization from Congress last year to use unspent appropriations for the rehabilitation of communities flattened by killer typhoon Yolanda.

“We can’t make shortcuts. The proposed joint Senate-House resolution or inclusion of a provision redefining savings in the 2015 proposed national budget violates the spirit of SC decision,” he said.

“Why redefine savings and court another adverse decision from the Supreme Court?” he asked.

Like Castelo, pork barrel watchdog People’s Initiative Against the Pork Barrel, asked lawmakers not to redefine savings or itemize lump sums in the national budget anymore.

In a statement, the group said allowing the president, chief justice, Senate president, House speaker and heads of constitutional commissions to declare and use savings at mid-year “defeats the constitutional power of Congress to appropriate (public funds).”

“It will be a mechanism to create a huge pork barrel,” it said.

In seeking to allow the use of saved funds on a quarterly basis, Evardone said using such money at the end of the year is impractical.

He said savings have to be used in a timely manner so they could contribute to economic growth, like when DAP funds were poured into infrastructure projects between 2011 and 2013.

He said no less than the World Bank and the Supreme Court had acknowledged that DAP had contributed significantly to economic expansion. With Jess Diaz

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

DAP clone in 2015 budget? by Ellson Quismorio August 3, 2014


Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon

Is the government resurrecting the constitutionally-challenged Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)?

This cropped up yesterday after Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon assailed a cloudy provision in the proposed 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which he described as a “clone” of the DAP.

Ridon said this DAP-like mechanism is the so-called Grassroots Participatory Budgeting (GPB) process, which would cost taxpayers P20.9 billion based on the proposed P2.606-trilion national budget for 2015. He said the amount is higher by almost P1 billion compared to last year’s allocation.

The GPB, formerly referred to as Bottom-up Budgeting, allows the national government to fund various pet projects in chosen local government units (LGUs) around the country, Ridon said.

“This P20.9 billion budget for LGU projects is on top of the P501-billion “Special Purpose Funds” for 2015, which includes a P2.9-billion Local Government Support Fund,” he said.

Within the GBP is a provision that enables LGUs to cancel and replace projects already indicated in the annual GAA or national budget, Ridon, a member of the militant Makabayan bloc in Congress, disclosed.

Ridon had earlier slammed the GPB for being “highly vulnerable to corruption.”

* He also branded GPB as the ruling Liberal Party’s (LP’s) own campaign aid for the 2016 national elections.

ROAD WORKS GALORE

“The Aquino administration cannot hide the fact that the 2015 GPB-funded projects are meant to boost LP’s election bid. A cursory analysis of the projects listed for 2015 reveal tons and tons of road construction, rehabilitation and concreting,” noted Ridon.

The minority solon cited other GPB-funded projects such as irrigation and sitio electrification, “but the sheer number of road projects outshines these,” he said.

“The public is already aware of politicians’ modus operandi of building roads just before elections in order to gain kickbacks from these projects.”

‘TO BE IDENTIFIED’ PROJECTS

Ridon also noted several dubiously-labeled projects listed under the GPB.

“There are projects worth P500,000 to P1.5 million simply listed as ‘various road projects,’ ‘various LGU projects,’ or simply, ‘various projects.’ Worse, there are projects – like those in Cabuyao, Laguna; Alabat, Quezon; and Malvar, Batangas – that are simply listed as ‘to be identified,’” he said.

“There are also several cities and municipalities – including parts of Bohol, Aurora, Samar, and Nueva Ecija – that list multi-million projects that are yet ‘to be identified,’” added Ridon, who is a lawyer.

“Budget Secretary [Florencio] Abad assured the public that the six-volume proposed 2015 budget contains detailed projects that have been properly itemized and identified. But what in the world are ‘to be identified’ projects? How will Congress scrutinize such allocations?” he asked, saying that approving funding for unidentified projects is “counter-intuitive.”

SIMILAR TO DAP

In House Resolution (HR) 1284 filed last July, Ridon explained that the implementing rules of the GPB gives LGUs the ability to cancel and replace certain programs and projects, a trait akin to DAP.

In National Budget Memorandum No. 121 issued on March 18, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) stated that, “If a project [under GPB] is deemed not feasible for implementation after validation of the concerned participating agency, the project may be replaced with another project that can be implemented by the same participating agency in the same city or municipality” subject to certain conditions.

Among the conditions are: 1.) The project has been deemed not feasible for implementation by the concerned participating agency, 2.) The project is located in a city or municipality that was greatly affected by “Yolanda,” Bohol earthquake, and Zamboanga City siege, and 3.) The project has been funded/implemented through another funding source(s).

“By allowing the cancellation and replacement of projects already identified in the General Appropriations Act, the GPB has actually opened a new way for the executive department to usurp the congressional power of the purse,” Ridon said.

In its July 1 ruling on the DAP, the Supreme Court (SC) had already struck down as unconstitutional the “funding of projects, activities, and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the General Appropriations Act.”

“Replacing a project or program already approved by Congress through the GPB mechanism is thus illegal and unconstitutional,” the Kabataan solon stressed.

FROM THE KABATAAN WEBSITE

‘DAP clone’ for LGUs gets almost P1 billion boost in 2015 budget 2 AUGUST 2014 135 VIEWS NO COMMENT

Road concreting, unidentified projects take up bulk of P20.9 GPB budget for 2015

“Bottoms up!”

This may prove to be the celebratory call of the members of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), as they toast for the higher budget allotted by the national government for various pet projects in local government units (LGUs) under the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting (GPB).

The assailed GPB, a mechanism which has been invariably branded as a “DAP clone” and “LP campaign kitty” will get a 4.5 percent or close to P1 billion increase next year, with the total proposed GPB budget for 2015 pegged at P20.9 billion, according to the proposed 2015 national budget submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

(See this link for detailed list of 2015 GPB projects.)

This P20.9 billion budget for LGU projects is on top of the P501-billion “Special Purpose Funds” for 2015, which includes a P2.9-billion Local Government Support Fund.

President Benigno Aquino III himself boasted about the increase in his 2015 President’s Budget Message.

“Through the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (formerly Bottom-up Budgeting), which we first employed in crafting the 2013 proposed Budget, we directly involved grassroots communities in the process of formulating and implementing the annual National Budget. For the 2015 Budget, community-based organizations and local CSOs engaged 1,633 cities and municipalities in developing local poverty reduction programs and projects – an expansion from the 595 cities and municipalities covered by the 2013 Budget process and the 1,225 cities and municipalities in the 2014 Budget process,” Aquino said in his 2015 budget message.

“The result was a larger allocation of P20.9 billion in 2015, from P8.0 billion in 2013 and P20.0 billion in 2014, to fund local projects, such as potable water supply, agricultural infrastructure and facilities support, rural healthcare facilities, and sustainable livelihood programs,” Aquino disclosed.

Under the GPB process, select LGUs are asked to come up with a “wish list” amounting to an average of P15 million worth of projects that they want to be funded by the national government, through consultations with local basic sector organizations (BSOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs).

The GPB was earlier criticized by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon for being “highly vulnerable to corruption” and containing a “DAP-like” provision that enables local government officials to cancel and replace projects already indicated in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Last July, Ridon has sought for a congressional investigation of the said mechanism through House Resolution No. 1284.

Road concreting galore

“The Aquino administration cannot hide the fact that the 2015 GPB-funded projects are meant to boost LP’s election bid. A cursory analysis of the projects listed for 2015 reveal tons and tons of road construction, rehabilitation, and concreting,” Ridon noted.

Majority of the GPB-funded projects listed in the 2015 National Expenditure Program (NEP) are for “core local road construction, maintenance, or rehabilitation” and road concreting. There are also other projects, including irrigation and sitio electrification, but the sheer number of road projects outshine these.

“Ang malaking tanong dito ay kung ‘yung mga kalsada bang ipapatayo ay hindi pa talaga naitatayo, o gigibain lang ang dating kalsada para magtayo ng bago. Alam ng taumbayan na malaking modus operandi ng mga pulitiko ang pagpapatayo kuno ng mga kalsada bago ang eleksyon para makakuha ng ‘tongpats’ sa proyekto. Kapag nakalusot sa Kamara ang GPB, maglilipana na naman ang road construction sa buong bansa sa susunod na taon,” Ridon said.

“Halatang-halatang ang mga proyektong ito ay dinesenyo para makapangalap ng pondo para sa eleksyon. Wala man lang ni katiting na pagpapanggap,” the lawmaker noted.

‘TBA’ (to be announced) projects

The lawmaker also noted several dubiously-named projects listed under the GPB.

There are projects worth P500,000 to P1.5 million simply listed as “various road projects,” “various LGU projects, or simply “various projects.”

Worse, there are projects – like those in Cabuyao, Laguna, Alabat, Quezon and Malvar, Batangas – that are simply listed as “to be identified.”

There are also several cities and municipalities – including parts of Bohol, Aurora, Samar, and Nueva Ecija – that list multi-million projects that are yet “to be identified.”

“Budget Sec. Abad assured the public that the six-volume proposed 2015 budget contains detailed projects that have been properly itemized and identified. But what in the world are ‘to be identified’ projects? How will Congress scrutinize such allocations?” Ridon asked, saying that approving funding for unidentified projects is “counter-intuitive.”

“Sec. Abad, if you think we would not read the fine print, you are wrong. We know that the devil is in the details, and as early as now, your schemes are being exposed one by one,” Ridon said.

Similar to DAP

In HR 1284 filed last July, Ridon explained that the implementing rules of the GPB gives LGUs the ability to cancel and replace certain programs and projects, a characteristic similar to that of DAP.

In National Budget Memorandum No. 121 issued on March 18, DBM stated that, “If a project [under GPB] is deemed not feasible for implementation after validation of the concerned participating agency, the project may be replaced with another project that can be implemented by the same participating agency in the same city or municipality” subject to the following conditions:

The project has been deemed not feasible for implementation by the concerned participating agency
The project is located in a city or municipality that was greatly affected by Yolanda, Bohol Earthquake, and Zamboanga City
The project has been funded/implemented through another funding source(s)
“By allowing the cancellation and replacement of projects already identified in the General Appropriations Act, the GPB has actually opened a new way for the Executive Department to usurp the congressional power of the purse,” Ridon said.

In the recent ruling on DAP, the SC has already struck down as unconstitutional the “funding of projects, activities and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the General Appropriations Act.”

“Replacing a project or program already approved by Congress through the GPB mechanism is thus illegal and unconstitutional,” Ridon stressed.

Vulnerable to corruption

The youth lawmaker also expressed fear that GPB funds are being used for LP’s early campaigning.

“With DILG at the helm of implementing GPB projects, some also speculate that the P20-billion budget for GPB is actually allotted for the supposed candidacy of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas in the upcoming 2016 presidential elections. In fact, Sec. Roxas has been doing rounds in LGUs in the past months to personally distribute funds and inaugurate projects under the GPB,” Ridon said in HR 1284.

“With so many issues surrounding the GPB, it is important for Congress to immediately probe this mechanism and block the passage of dubious projects listed under GPB for 2015. Not only is the Executive again usurping the congressional power of the purse, the GPB mechanism also exposes billions of public funds to various vulnerabilities,” the lawmaker stressed.

MANILA STANDARD COMMENTARY

The rape of Congress  By Jojo Robles | Aug. 01, 2014 at 12:01am

Perhaps it’s true, as one forgotten politician once said, that if rape is unavoidable, then the only recourse is to enjoy it. And when one Supreme Court justice wrote recently that he was against the “rape” of Congress through President Noynoy Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, maybe he should have asked our legislators first if they were actually allowing and enjoying their violation.

My current favorite post-State of the Nation Address story is about how, after Aquino gave his “It’s All About Me” speech, nearly all of the members of the Lower House left the Batasan, leaving only 28 congressmen in the cavernous hall. That’s less than 10 percent of the entire House’s 290-strong membership—and definitely below the majority required for a quorum.

The upshot of the mass desertion at the Batasan was that the first regular session day could not even proceed because there was practically no one to conduct the House’s business. And yet, the leaders of the chamber present even tried to call the House to order.

Thankfully, the session never took place after some of the remaining lawmakers protested the quorum lack. It was just another regular session day wasted—and the first in the reopened 16th Congress.

Of course, the members of the House’s progressive bloc, who walked out of the hall right before Aquino gave his speech in protest, cannot be included in the vast majority of our “non-working” congressmen who should take the blame for the aborted session.

After they had changed out of their symbolic peach-colored outfits, the militant lawmakers joined the anti-Aquino protesters along Congressional Avenue, to be hosed down by the hundreds of policemen who were preventing them from marching on the Batasan behind concrete traffic blocks and razor-sharp concertina wire.

But how shall we describe Rep. Jules Ledesma, that habitual House absentee, who did not even attend Congress’ opening but who sent his actress wife to parade down the red carpet to display her physical gifts and her expensive designer gown? Is this really why we have a Congress still?

I wonder how House Speaker and Aquino loyalist Feliciano Belmonte, when his term ends, will report (as speakers do) what he did during his leadership.

Will Belmonte ever admit that the House routinely cannot even muster a quorum and that, despite the free catered food and the cost of the air-conditioning (to say nothing of the billions required to staff and operate Congress year after year), the speaker can’t even get his fellow lawmakers to show up for work?

*  Of course, every year that Congress opens, all our lawmakers—except for recidivists like Ledesma—are present, if only to give the television cameras and their own colleagues an idea of how fashionable they are. But they say politics is showbiz for the ugly—and my, are these bums, all dolled up and rocking their expensive threads, ugly inside and out.

* * *

Over at the Senate, they do manage to come up with a working quorum on a regular basis. But because of the slavishness of the Senate leadership and its palace-oriented majority, perhaps it would really be better if our senators took a cue from their peers in the House and simply not come to work, if all they’re going to do anyway is the bidding of Malacañang.

The culprit in the chamber is also its leader, the equally Aquino-loving Senate President Franklin Drilon, whose personal first order of business is to reverse the Supreme Court ruling against DAP through a law or a resolution (it is not really clear which).

Drilon announced that since there is no definitions of the savings impounded through DAP in the Constitution but only regular laws, Congress can overturn the decision through a joint resolution or supplemental budget.

Of course, it was also Drilon who led the “zarzuela” of a recent hearing where his party mate and the architect of DAP, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, made an appearance with most of Aquino’s Cabinet. Drilon did a yeoman’s job of shepherding the hearing and defending DAP like he, not Abad, was its author, ignoring all the criticism that was lobbed his way of prostituting the chamber.

(Drilon and his fellow palace-bought senators could care less about the criticism about how they acted like DAP’s defenders during the hearing. They were obviously performing for an audience of one person in Malacañang—never mind if they sunk their once-independent chamber to one of the lowest points of its long history.)

To pursue the rape analogy, if the Belmonte House simply kept quiet while it was being raped by the palace, the Senate was hell-bent on noisily enjoying the rape, after sending out printed invitations for Aquino, Abad and the rest to have their way with the chamber. And you really wonder why some people—including Drilon, once —want Congress abolished?

The really sad thing about the rape of Congress is that our prostituted lawmakers are not really the victims here.

It’s you and me who have been violated—and it’s our money that’s being used to pay for these all-too-willing sex workers in Congress.

READER'S DISCUSSION OF THIS OPINION:


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chiquito • a day ago
The Three BAD PIGS in KING ABNOY's court...

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sammy chiquito • a day ago
Excellent!

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victorts • 2 days ago
Saan kaya kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha si Drilon, Belmonte, at iba pang lawmakers na parang mga alipin na sunod-sunuran sa isang pangulong wala sa matinong pag-iisip. Para silang mga aso na hahabulin ang "frisbee" kahit gaano kalayo at kahit saan basta mabigyan lang sila ng "buto" ng kanilang amo. At hindi na sila kailangang itrain. Sapat na na alam nilang may "buto" para sa kanila.

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sammy victorts • a day ago
Sa kapal ng perang ninanakaw at nanakawin pa.

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Rogelio Lim • 2 days ago
Ang Kongreso ay binubuo ng mga bayaran na prostitutes. Binabahay sila ni Noynoy na tinatawag na Upper House at Lower House. Ang mga prostitutes sa lower house ay binayaran lamang ng P5million mula sa DAP kaya karamihan sa kanila ay umuwi kaagad pagkatapos ng sona. Ang 28 prostitutes na maaring kinakabibilangan ni Belmonte(ang bugaw), Gonzales, Tupas, Evardone, Barzaga, Umali, Quimbo, Butch Abad's wife at iba pa na hindi ko maalala na ay may additional tips mula kay Noynoy kaya nagpaiwan. Sa upper house na kinabibilangan ni Drillon(ang bugaw) ay tumanggap ng mas malaki mula sa DAP(P50 to 100 million) at siguradong may mas malaking tips mula kay Noynoy, kaya sila ay hindi umuwi pagkatapos ng sona. Sila na ang pinakamahal na prostitutes sa buong mundo at isa lang kliyente nila kaya gusto nila ang kanilang trabaho.Ang kontrata nila ay anim na taon hanggang 2016. Renewable na anim na taon pag nanalo si Mar o Binay mula 2016 to 2022. Renewable din mula 2022 to 2028 pag nanalo si Kris. Basta pag nanalo ang isang Aquino, ito ay renewable.Dahil dito hindi sila nahihiya kahit sila ay prostitutes lamang. At saka pala taga palakpak sila pag may sona.

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Ronnie F Rogelio Lim • a day ago
Thanks Mr Lim, Keep on!

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sammy Rogelio Lim • a day ago
Hindi lahat. 3 wala Lagay Di ba?

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Guadalupe • 2 days ago
Since it's not the end of the game yet, we can still demand the restitution of what these lawmakers stole from us. The supremacy of the people must always be upheld. The rape happened because we, the people. cooperated to have it happened. Much will depend on our future mindset. It's time we give those lawmakers a comeuppance they will never forget.

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Nimrod Suaez Guadalupe • a day ago
again its eerie..... like ... a daughter raped in front of her family.... its about time the parents cut-off the head of the rapist ....

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sammy Nimrod Suaez • a day ago
Which head?

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Dan V. Guadalupe • a day ago
The supremacy of the people was what gave us this president. On the people's cooperation in the rape, speak for yourself. Nobody asked me and i never cooperated in the crime, did you?

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Guadalupe Dan V. • 21 hours ago
It's pointless to dwell on past mistakes. It's water under the bridge. Many Filipinos were hoodwinked into believing he is an "honorable" man. Only to discover that he is truly a big disappointment. The thing to do now is to focus on how we can get rid of him so he can do no further looting and damage to the country.

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Dan V. Guadalupe • 14 hours ago
I agree.

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Simon • 2 days ago
Bakit kaya tahimik na ang mga organizers ng Million People March? Mas Grabe na ito Harap-harapan sabwatan ng mga lawmakers at ni Presidente Benigno Aquino.

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The Piltdown Man • 2 days ago
What to do with absenteeism in Congress? This is a travesty that legislators get away with because the public won’t pay attention.
Here's my suggestion: except for legitimate state business or medical emergency, I think legislators who are habitually absent should have their pay docked each day they are absent, prorated according to their pay scale, up to ten days. On the eleventh day, and each day thereafter, they should also be fined PHP0,000 per day on top of the docked pay for each day they choose to skip. If they skip over the 20th day they should be informed to just go home and relax because they are not going to be paid the entire month anyway (plus fine of PHP0,000 for 20 or 21 days (fine that started on the 11th day of absence|).
And the above could be easily adopted as a House and/or Senate rule. Let's see if Belmonte and Drilon have any decency left and pass it. These are Chamber rules that I am sure everyone can live with, including Jules Ledesma. Or maybe not. Those who can't abide by it are free to leave. Resign. Or something.

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shortb The Piltdown Man • 19 hours ago
i think it will help if we open a new "reserve position" in the elections.
we can elect a "vice congressmen" who will not do anything while the congressman is still working, like a first runner up.
since that vice congressman will almost always want to sit in congress, he will do everything to find a fault in the seating congressman. this will make congressmen want to be very careful with their actions.

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The Piltdown Man shortb • 17 hours ago
That's right, huh? What a novel idea...institutionalize crab mentality. LOL!

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DilawNaMagnanakaw • a day ago
I have seen many presidents come and go but the Aquino loving Drillon goes on forever. This certified Aquino boots licker is one lucky guy indeed! We have an abundant supply of pork chop in the market. Sabi nga ng mga tropang Aquino," Puro kayo reklamo, kayo na ang mag presidente!" To sit down and keep silent and think that narcissistic Aquino will do us any good deed is like the man who who tries to pull himself out of a quicksand by his own hair. Billions of tax payers money were being stolen and they wanted us to just sit back and relax as if we were watching a movie. Hmp!

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vg • a day ago
The Senate, led by Drillon, is such a disgrace. We do not need bought people in a trust position.

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David • 2 days ago
"Of course, every year that Congress opens, all our lawmakers—except for recidivists like Ledesma—are present, if only to give the television cameras and their own colleagues an idea of how fashionable they are. But they say politics is showbiz for the ugly—and my, are these bums, all dolled up and rocking their expensive threads, ugly inside and out." Pangit talaga.

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Helen Ramos • a day ago
The Philippine Congress, once an August body, is now populated by whores. The only difference is in the level of experience and the amount required for taking them to bed. Of course, Drilon, is the Chief Pimp followed by a close second Pimp, Belmonte.
This country is being run by this president, through a whore house and the people's hard-earned money is being used to prime it up.

So what will it take to get our act together? The way things are going, the Pimps and their Whores and the CEO Benigno, have become blatant about putting their crime in our faces? Are we just going to continue looking the other way and keep allowing the abuse? Really? We have not had enough? Ano pa ang hinihintay ninyo?

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The Piltdown Man Helen Ramos • a day ago
One of the oldest jokes in the book is about Winston Churchill, who, during a cocktail party discussion about ethics and integrity, asks a young socialite if she would sleep with him for a million pounds.

She thinks about it for a moment and says, “Yes,” she probably would.

So he says, “Well then, would sleep with me for one pound?”

Indignant, she asks, "Mister, what do you think I am?"

Churchill replies, “We’ve already established what you are, madam. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

*******
Aquino has already declared war on the Supreme Court and at his SONA, he gave us a hint of what he was about to do (supplemental budget, redefining savings, etc.).

We've established how rotten his Congressional allies are. Now it's just up to Aquino to make them an offer they can't refuse.

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Guadalupe The Piltdown Man • a day ago
Very, very good and witty retort. No wonder some nosey trolls mistake you for the irrepressible joke master WJGB.

BTW, I truly like English humour. Your retelling of the Joke on Churchill was your coup d' maitre.

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The Piltdown Man Guadalupe • a day ago
English humor takes a little getting used to. That story about Churchill has been retold countless times, and it never ceases to put smile on my face every time I hear it. Vhurchill's style is biting. Lady Astoria once observed that Churchill was drunk. She told him so. And the very drunk Churchill came back with. a classic:"And you, my lady, is ugly. But tomorrow I shall wake up sober."

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Guadalupe The Piltdown Man • a day ago
I really love English humor. Very sophisticated, very sharp, never vulgar. Look at your last line on A Churchill quip. "And you, my lady, is ugly. But tomorrow I shall wake up sober."

I used to tell my friend WJ that I thoroughly enjoyed his humor which was much like Bob Hope's which I love. Bob Hope's humor is English humor. Never slapstick. Just in the language. The closest a comic strip got close to this kind of humor is Charlie Brown. I wonder if the cartoonist is Englist.

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The Piltdown Man Guadalupe • a day ago
Believe it or not, Charles Schultz parents are German and Norwegian. (With my iPad I binged Peanuts creator).

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Guadalupe The Piltdown Man • a day ago
No wonder. He's good. He's not an American. But what do you mean by this - (With my iPad I binged Peanuts creator)? I don't get this.

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The Piltdown Man Guadalupe • a day ago
With my iPad I searched for the personal profile of the Peanuts creator (which turns out to be Charles Schultz) using Bing, Microsoft's search engine.'

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Guadalupe The Piltdown Man • 21 hours ago
Oh, thanks. I have to get used to this new kind of language. LOL Until then, you just have to be my tutor.

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Helen Ramos The Piltdown Man • a day ago
My ancestry, through my maternal grandfather, which we have managed to trace to 1280, goes way back to England. So I am comfortable with English humor.

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The Piltdown Man Helen Ramos • a day ago
I cannot say the same about me. But I know for sure that some of the trolls following me are at least half-wit.

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Guadalupe The Piltdown Man • 21 hours ago
Oh boy,.....that's a big laugh!

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Guadalupe Helen Ramos • a day ago
American humor is slapstick like Paul Lind. I prefer Bob Hope. Do you know that even in suspense writing, the English excel. American suspense sometimes thinks the audiences are idiots.

Like this TV program we have hear Pinoy Big Brother. Heavens, I'm so sick of it. It is made for idiotic Filipinos. Watch it and you'll be an abnoy. I'm glad it at the end of a day's menu. When it's on, know it's time to sign off.

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The Piltdown Man Guadalupe • a day ago
LOL! But you are right. Our TV programs and movies never stray from the old standby of political corruption; love rivalries; extreme poverty; etc. On TV these days: bigamy, homosexuality, fantasy, etc. And all the actors seem to enjoy shouting at each other and jerking everybody around. Is it any wonder that 'Be Careful With My Heart' is very popular as a long-running TV drama because the characters show a lot of respect toward each other.

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Guadalupe Helen Ramos • a day ago
Do you know that the English themselves do not like American humor.

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The Piltdown Man Helen Ramos • a day ago
Ah, that reminds me. I read something about Scotland (OK, it's part of kingdom anyway, so I will go ahead and tell it). An American news reporter was sent to attend a big Wallace Clan gathering a few months after the movie about their ancestor William Wallace was released. (The movie was Braveheart). Anyway, what the reporter found was that all the Wallace relatives he interviewed had one thing in common: rotten teeth. Unfortunately, the reporter was unable to explain why that is. I picked it up right away. Largely responsible is the poor state of dental health system in that country.

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Guadalupe The Piltdown Man • a day ago
Golly, .....you forfeited the accolade I just gave you a while ago. LOL

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Taga_mindanao • a day ago
This is too painful... these senators and congressman knows na ginagago na nila tayo..
Itong si drilon.... wala na talagang hiya.. si belmonte hay naku walang nagawa..pareho lang kay herbert.. walang nagawa sa krimen sa quezon city

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disqus_1RoYcJ1D6S • a day ago
Congress rots. The stench from the corral where these BOTCHA lawmakers are being bred is too much for our noses to bear hence, the need for decontamination. The hangdogs will never admit their guilt and the move to forcibly change the law to escape responsibility is an act committed by a group who are emboldened not by the dictates of their conscience but by sheer numbers. In Pilipino, “matapang kung marami pero bahag ang buntot kapag solo na.” Billions had already been pocketed by the crooks and that trillions more are at stake next year. Whatever one thinks of an administration led by a congenitally lying THIEF EXECUTIVE who has only two years left in office, but is obviously obsessed to leave behind a legacy of perfect governance and an illusion of being the best president this country ever had is a matter of conjecture at this point. This dark part in our history will be recounted in books that the next generation of students many of them will become lawyers themselves, will peruse.

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4RuleofLaw • a day ago
For the 2016 elections, NEVER VOTE FOR THE INCUMBENT!!!
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andres_bagumbayan1 • a day ago
Patuloy ang pagsunod ng mga payasong deputado sa kumpas ng mahal na haring Simeon aquino.sa isang kumpas lamang ng hari ay tila tsubibong paikot-ikot na sa pagsunod ang mga bayarang deputado!!! Hindi ako manghihinayang kung putulin na ang paninilbihan ng kongreso sa dahilan puro kabalbalan lamng ang kanilang nagawa sa inang bayan!!!

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patawad • 2 days ago
Oh, it was the late senator Manglapus who said so, about just for a woman to enjoy rape....never to be forgotten...

Absenteeism in congress. i think, was encouraged by then speaker of the house Joe de Venecia....He bragged about the perks that go with being a congressman...can be absent, free travel overseas, lots of holidays with pay, and so on...and so they did.

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Rodrigonase • a day ago
Rape of Congress? You must be kidding. Prostitutes might as
well enjoy it for as long as they get
paid for it.

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bookersistrunk • a day ago
"the speaker can’t even get his fellow lawmakers to show up for work?"!

isn't it about just fair, no work no pay?! well, if they continue to pretend to work, then let's pretend to pay them too!

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revitor • a day ago
This present Congress is a hopeless case. Similar to the "Stockholm Syndrome", they were raped, they relished the offense and and now they are asking for more. We have a funny anecdote for the Visayans that a certain household was burglarized and the wife was also raped. When the robbers start to leave, the wife said "BALIK-BALIK KAWATAN HA"! .

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Benigno KUHA-KO AKIN-NA • a day ago
Baka sabihin ng Kongreso ay na-rape sila in “good faith”. PUTANG KONGRESO IYAN. MANYAK TALAGA ANG MALACAÑANG.

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Clinton Dave • a day ago
Dapat ang title ay: THE GANG RAPE OF FILIPINOS BY SEX MANIACS IN CONGRESS, SENATE & MALACANANG!

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ticong nava • a day ago
A prostituted congress, both senators and congressmen, enjoy the rape with consent.

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4RuleofLaw • a day ago
Only in the Philippines where members of congress should be bribed just to even attend a session!!! NEVER VOTE FOR THE INCUMBENT IN 2016!!!

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Sura • a day ago
Gone are the days when the members of the Congress are deserving to be called august. They no longer appear as statesmanlike. Except for a noble few, what we have now are men and women who are camera whores but with little to give when they speak their minds. Worse, principle, honor and dignity are words that are meaningless in their vocabulary.

FROM THE PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE GAZETTE


GAZETTE LOGO

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL

The proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) Act aims to mandate the disclosure of public documents. The proposed bill also outlines the exceptions for public disclosure and the procedures for accessing public documents.

UPDATES
Senate

On Monday, March 10, 2014, the Senate passed the FOI bill on third and final reading, with 22 affirmative votes, no abstention, and no negative votes.

House of Representatives

The Committee of Public Information of the House of Representatives has formed a technical working group (TWG) to expedite the passage of the house version. The TWG has conducted regular meetings to discuss the provisions last February to June. Resource persons from the different offices from the executive participated in the meetings. The Office of the President was represented by Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III.

On October 23, 2013, Camarines Sur Third District Representative Maria Leonor G. Robredo filed House Bill No. 3237, otherwise known as “An Act to Strengthen the Right of Citizens to Information held by the Government.”

Administration

Both the above bills follow the proposed FOI bill approved by President Benigno S. Aquino III, which was transmitted to the previous Congress by the Secretary of Budget and Management, Florencio Abad. Secretary Abad resubmitted the bill to the current Congress as well.

This FOI bill is an integral element of the Aquino Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan of 2012-2016. This plan lays out reforms and initiatives that pursue greater transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in governance.

This draft bill is a result of a consultative process conducted by an administration study group after careful study of similar legislation in order to balance the government’s legitimate needs for secrecy with the public’s right to know.

The administration study group was composed of Communications Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III (lead), Secretary Ramon A. Carandang, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, Secretary Florencio B. Abad, and Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, in coordination with the stakeholders.

THE PROPOSED BILLS

House Bill No. 3237

Click here to download the bill from the website of the House of Representatives

Senate Bill No. 1733

Click here to download

Proposed 2013 Freedom of Information Bill

Click here to download the bill

Q AND A

Who can ask for information?

Every Filipino citizen.

To whom can we ask for information?

All government agencies (specifically defined under section 3 of the proposed bill).

What information will be made available?

All information pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as government research data used as a basis for policy development, regardless of its physical form or format.

What information will remain classified? (See Section 6 for specific details.)

Information specifically authorized to be kept secret under guidelines established by an executive order, and properly classified.

The records of minutes and advice given and opinions expressed during decision-making or policy formulation, invoked by the Chief Executive to be privileged by reason of the sensitivity.

Information pertaining to internal and/or external defense, law enforcement, and border control.

Drafts of orders, resolutions, decisions, memoranda, or audit reports by any executive, administrative, regulatory, constitutional, judicial, or quasi-judicial body.

Information obtained by any committee of either house of Congress in executive session.

Personal information of a natural person other than the requesting party. (See Section 6f for details.)

Information pertaining to trade secrets and commercial or financial information that would seriously prejudice industrial, financial, or commercial competition. (See Section 6g for details.)

Information classified as privileged communications in legal proceedings by law or by the Rules of Court.

Information exempted by law or the Constitution.

What are the advantages of this bill compared to the prior bills filed in Congress?

This proposed bill expanded access to financial information, such as SALNs of government officials, and access to other kinds of information, such as transactions by incorporating a provision making the posting/publication mandatory. (See list in Sections 7 and 8.)

The public is spared the tedious work of trying to access certain information from different agencies when the information is made available in one portal, the Official Gazette website (www.gov.ph) being the official publication for the following information:
- Important legislative acts and resolutions of a public nature of the Congress of the Philippines;
- Executive and administrative orders and proclamations of general application;
- Decisions or abstracts of decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals or other courts of similar rank, as may be deemed of sufficient importance to be so published;
- Such documents or classes of documents as the President shall determine to have general application.

The bill asks government agencies to translate key information into major Filipino languages and present them in popular form and means.

All government agencies are required to prepare a Freedom of Information Manual that will contain details and procedures and serve as a guide on the matter.

Procedure of access (Refer to Section 16 for specifics on the matter.)

1. Request

Submit a request to the government agency concerned either personally, by mail, or through electronic means.

2. Receiving

The request will be stamped by the government agency, indicating the date, time, and other details of receipt (refer to Section 16b). In case the request is submitted by electronic means, the government agency shall provide for an equivalent means by which the requirements shall be met.

3. Waiting time

The government agency shall comply with such request as soon as practicable, and in any case within 15 working days from receipt. The period may be extended for specific cases. (Refer to Section 16e.)

4. Notification

The government agency shall, in writing or through electronic means, notify the person making the request of the extension, the reasons for extension, and the date the information will be made available (no more than 20 working days).

5. Grant and Payment

Once a decision is made to grant the request, the person making the request shall be notified of such and pay the required access and processing fees.

What will happen if my request is not granted?

The government agency shall notify the person making the request of such denial in writing or through electronic means within 15 working days from the receipt of the request.

The notice shall clearly set forth the ground for denial and the circumstances on which the denial is based. Failure to notify shall be deemed a denial of the request for access to information.

Following the proper procedure, denial of a request for access to information may be appealed to the head of agency, then Ombudsman, then a verified petition for mandamus may be filed in the proper court.

The Judiciary shall however will be governed by such remedies as promulgated by the Supreme Court.

Is the Admin Bill a watered down version of the previously filed bills in Congress?

No. The Admin Bill in fact expanded the list of mandatory information for disclosure, provided a specific procedure for access, stated the exemptions in a very clear and transparent manner, and directed that the exemptions are to be strictly construed.

What is the next step now that the proposed bill has been submitted to the House released to the public?

The work of improving transparency and access to information does not end with the submission of the Admin FOI.

For meaningful freedom of information to be achieved, the Aquino Administration is pursuing other initiatives under the GGAC Plan: development of technologies to automate the processing and disclosure of information (e.g., National Portal for Government Information, Government Integrated Financial Management Information System, Pera ng Bayan and Budget ng Bayan websites, etc.); improving compliance to existing standards (e.g. disclosure of agency budgets, Citizen’s Charters, etc.); among others.

How does FOI relate to the other governance reforms under the Aquino Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan 2012-2016?

Greater access to information will, in general, empower citizens to hold their public officials accountable and to participate in government processes that are being opened to them by this administration. For instance, greater access to information on government projects and spending will allow civil society organizations to make more meaningful and accurate inputs to the Participatory Budget and Participatory Audit processes that this administration has initiated. The mandatory posting of SALNs will also empower our government investigators and their citizen-partners to run after corrupt officials.

Sources

(1) Senate Bill No. 1733

(2) House Bill No. 3237

(3) 1987 Constitution

(4) Proposed bill – FOI Act of 2013


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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