SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano has announced that for the first time, the public will be given a chance to directly participate in the hearings for the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.
“Since the start of this pandemic, Congress has taken advantage of these new technologies to continue doing our work. Now, as we deliberate on the budget, we can use these same systems to allow our fellow citizens – not just to watch, but to directly participate in the process,” Cayetano said.
The Speaker’s call for participation harks back to his stint as Secretary of Foreign Affairs when he would invite overseas Filipino worker (OFW) leaders to participate in meetings with ambassadors and consuls.
“I’ve always believed that the best way to ensure accountability among public officials, is by being completely transparent in what we do. Just like with the OFWs and the programs of the DFA, we want people to help us scrutinize p, not just the budget but also Congress,” Cayetano stressed.
This time around, with the challenges of COVID-19 still present, Cayetano urged the public to use social media and other platforms or to reach out to their representatives in order to participate in the budget hearings.
He said Congress needs the input of the public in the same way their ideas were sought and considered during the crafting of the now-ratified Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).
“We are the House of the People. We will be discussing the people’s money so the people should have a voice. They should be able to give us their opinion, tell us what they want us to prioritize, and witness the process firsthand. This also goes to show our transparency and accountability to our constituents,” he added.
Cayetano said the House leadership will be meeting early this week to discuss the mechanics and protocols to be observed by the public in their participation.
“This is going to be the first time that this will be done, so there might be some growing pains. But we want to make sure that it is as inclusive and comprehensive as possible. Dapat po lahat ng gusting magsalita ay mabibigyan ng pagkakataon na marinig ang boses,” said Cayetano.
Aside from getting the public involved, Cayetano also pledged to pass the budget in record time to address the needs of the public immediately as part of the government’s three-pronged strategy on economic recovery.
“After the successful ratification of the Bayanihan 2 last week, we now move on to the second step of our three-pronged strategy: the 2021 National Budget. While we have to be conscientious, we also have to keep in mind that we are in a pandemic, so we have to be fast and efficient,” he said.
During the submission of the National Expenditure Program to Congress last week, Cayetano assured the public that the House will work diligently with their counterparts in the Senate, with all the sectors, and with the Executive Department in order to come up with a “very, very good budget.”
The House of Representatives is scheduled to conduct its first set of budget hearings on Friday (September 4) with the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) to tackle the financing of the budget, growth forecasts, sectoral priorities, policies, and initiatives that will be significant in the deliberation of the budget.
The DBCC is composed of the Department of Budget and Management, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Finance, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).