Palace deletes transparency clause in budget

Published by rudy Date posted on January 31, 2009

Malacañang has deleted the transparency clause in the proposed P1.415-trillion national budget, according to Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

Pangilinan said he was shocked to learn of Malacanang’s move to exclude the Right to Information section in the proposed budget.

“It is not clear whether this was a devious desire or just an oversight,” he said.

The “right to information” clause was included in the 2009 general appropriations bill to ensure transparency and accountability in government, he said.

Pangilinan said the section was first approved by Congress for the 2007 budget but it was eventually vetoed by the Office of the President. It was not proposed for the 2008 budget.

Pangilinan said the section stipulates “the right of the people to information on matters of public concern” but “subject to limitations as may be provided by law.”

“These budgets did not provide for transparency, and could therefore not be monitored effectively by the private sector,” Pangilinan said.

“This is perhaps a key reason why corruption has become increasingly worse. Less transparency means less accountability and more corruption,” he said.

“This is alarming. The newly approved P1.4-trillion budget has several provisions that should be made transparent to minimize corruption,” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan, citing a CODE-NGO January 2009 report “Of Scams and Lump Sums,” said the lump sum appropriation of P9.4 billion for rice, P6.0 billion for irrigation and P3.7 billion for farm-to-market roads in the Department of Agriculture budget cannot be monitored without the Right to Information section.

“How are we going to monitor now how the DA will utilize the funds? We don’t want another scam similar to the fertilizer scam to happen,” he said.

The senator also cited an ABS-CBN News report dated Jan. 30, 2008 which said that the worsening corruption in the country was hampering the flow of millions of dollars in additional aid.

Ambassador John Danilovich, chief executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC), earlier voiced “serious concerns over corruption indicators for the Philippines.”

In December last year, Danilovich announced that the Philippines failed to qualify for a large-scale grant under the US government foreign assistance program because of corruption.

Pangilinan cited Danilovich’s warning that the MCC would not sign a compact until the country passes the indicator criteria on corruption.

“Isn’t it shameful that rampant corruption in our country is being exposed?”

He also mentioned the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) survey of 13 Asian countries in which the Philippines was perceived as the most corrupt. “Our country received an alarmingly high 9.0 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is the worst possible score.  That’s how bad corruption is today in our country,” Pangilinan said.–Christina Mendez, Philippine Star

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