Best safeguard It’s their money.

May 02, 2019

Therefore, it would be in their best interest to make sure it is not lost to opportunistic lawmakers and their devious means to corner the money and divert it for their personal pet projects and programs.

Indeed, citizens must regain control of how their dues to the state are allocated and spent.

This, we believe is the true essence of people power.

Taxpayers themselves would soon serve as the biggest safeguard against pork barrel being sneaked into the national budget, with a bill filed by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson.

Senate Bill 2219 institutionalizes the direct participation of people's organizations and non-government organizations in the preparation of the spending bill.

"Now is the time for Congress to recognize the importance of the direct participation by people's organizations and non-government organizations in the budget deliberation," Lacson said in his bill.

"We should institutionalize the practice of legislature-civil society collaboration in order to achieve a people-oriented budget as well as establish transparency and accountability in the budget process," he added.

Lacson noted the standoff that delayed the passage of the 2019 national budget was due mainly to abuse and indiscretions by some legislators from both houses of Congress.

He lamented the House of Representatives' leadership even went beyond the mandate of the law and time-honored legislative practice by introducing realignments even after the budget had been ratified - a violation of the 1987 Constitution.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the 2019 spending bill last April 15, but not without vetoing P93.5 billion in questionable items, including the post-realignment manipulations questioned by Lacson and the Senate leadership.

In his bill, Lacson emphasized the budget encompasses all aspects of governance and reflects the government's sincerity and political will to achieve social and economic change.

"The vital role it plays in the operations of our government, and ultimately in the life of every Filipino, demands that there should be mechanisms in place that will enable citizens to participate in the budget process so as to correct spending priorities and to ensure transparency in the appropriation of valuable taxpayers' money," he said, adding the budget process allows Filipinos to exercise their citizenship through the power to directly influence social and economic priorities.

Lacson, who has served as a watchdog of the budget, stressed civil society organization participation "shall be a component in the preparation and authorization of the annual national budget," with national government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations outlining the relevant mechanisms for their active participation.