The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) expressed optimism that Congress will soon approve the controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill and the Budget Modernization Bill under the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
House Plenary (Ellson Quismorio/MANILA BULLETIN)
DBM Assistant Secretary Rolando Toledo said that a “push from the executive” would turn the two bills into law.
“(We’re) looking forward to having the FOI law passed. With this administration, with the push from the executive, we are looking forward, we’ll have the Freedom of Information law,” he shared during a recent forum entitled, “The Legitimacy of President Marcos Jr.: Entailing the Need for More Transparent and Accountable Governance.”
The forum was organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute and Democracy Watch Philippines last Friday.
He also took pride in the “gains” of the public’s access to information in the local government level.
“As far as FOI [in local governments] is concerned, there are already gains. Around 61 local budget issuances as far as Freedom of Information has been signed. It has been a law at the local government units already,” the official added.
In an earlier speech, Marcos himself called on “all branches of government to genuinely uphold and give effect to the people’s freedom of information in the course of our day-to-day operations, with good faith and openness.”
With the Budget Modernization Bill among the priority legislations of the Marcos administration, Toledo has high hopes that both chambers of Congress would support the proposal.
“Yes, we are hopeful that this PBBM [Progressive Budgeting for Better and Modernization Governance] bill will be passed. Given that we’ve already consulted a lot in Congress and there are congressmen who are sponsoring this bill already,” he said, sharing that there are already 11 lawmakers who authored the bill in the lower house and two in the upper house.
“We saw that we really need [to] publish our reports and our documents, and make them available to the public. That is very important because we want the public to know what the government is doing, what the government is investing in,” Toledo added.
Despite being hopeful of the passage of the bill, the official stressed that “it all depends still on Congress.”
For his part, Stratbase ADR Institute President and Democracy Watch Philippines Lead Convenor Dindo Manhit urged Marcos to capitalize on his electoral victory and strong political capital to push for legislations improving transparency and accountability.
“What I took note of is the credibility of elections. When I look at data, there were 39 percent of people who said there was less cheating [in 2022] and that the speed of counting votes in Comelec was 86 percent. That’s technology and we’re proud of how technology helps improve governance, how technology can make people live in a world that is more transparent and accountable,” Manhit explained.
In tracking the performance of the President in the past three quarters, his group found that even those who did not vote for Marcos “accept” and “trust” his performance.
“Elections are over and we are tracking his [Marcos Jr] performance and we have tracked it in the past three quarters, it’s within the range of 76 to 80 percent,” he said.
“That means that while 58 percent voted for the President, as we moved on, even those who did not vote for him accept his performance, trust his performance as president. And he should harness this to push for measures that will ensure transparency and accountability in government,” Manhit added.
As he welcomed the President’s recent pronouncement to uphold the FOI and the institutionalization of the Philippine Open Government Partnership (PH-OGP) through the issuance of Executive Order No. 31, the Stratbase ADR Institute head underscored the need for a more transparent and accountable government to attract investors to the country.
“I was doing assessment of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) across region, and I learned that top concern for FDI is still governance. Investments are important because they create those initiatives that will help our people uplift their lives,” he said.
“We’re proud of the seven percent growth driven by consumption. But can you imagine if we get consumption side-by-side with investment-led growth. You uplift the lives of people,” he added.
— Raymund Antonio
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