The Alternative Budget Initiative: Round 3

By Leonor Magtolis Briones
abs-cbnNEWS.com | 09/28/2008 7:59 PM
THE BUSINESS OF GOVERNANCE

On Tuesday, September 30 , 2008 another milestone in the history of budgeting in the Philippines will take place. The civil society members of the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) convened by Social Watch Philippines will present their alternative budget for 2009 in the areas of education, health, agriculture and the environment. ABI will also present its critique of the macroeconomic assumptions underlying the proposed budget.

The presentation marks the third year of organized citizen participation in the budget process. Citizens groups have always participated individually in the budget process. ABI is significant in that civil society organizations united and went into partnership with legislators who shared their advocacy. ABI’s advocacy is supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) . Both institutions support the world wide movement for participatory budgeting.

Appropriations Committee Chair Junie Cua will continue the historic practice started by former Appropriation Committee Chair Edcel Lagman .The latter initiated the first hearing on the proposed alternative budget for the 2008 budget. Budget hearings are traditionally conducted on the Executive’s proposed budget. Last year, civil society organizations were given the opportunity to present their alternative proposal for social development to the Appropriations Committee. The legislators asked very detailed questions. They were aware of the historic implications of the hearing.

The past two experiences in participatory budgeting were different. Round 3 promises to be different also. The budget process remains the same—budget preparation, budget authorization or legislation, budget implementation, and accountability. Nevertheless, recent developments make this round interesting and different.

First, the economic environment under which the budget proposal was made is very different. The country is suffering from an economic slowdown. It is buffeted not only by physical storms but also by turmoil in the external as well as domestic economy. Thus, it is more difficult to determine with certainty the state of the economy in 2009.

Second, it is also widely believed that the 2009 budget will be an election budget. Suspicions are rife that the budget is expected to provide funds which can be diverted to finance election spending. Thus, advocates and critics of the 2009 budget are edgy. Both sides are monitoring each other.

Third, consideration of the 2009 budget is taking place amidst issues concerning the practice of “congressional insertions”. Personally, I prefer to use the words “realignment” , “reallocation” and “amendment”. Congress has the duty to carefully review the president’s budget proposal and recommend amendments. Unquestioning approval will mean that Congress is a mere rubber stamp of the Executive.

The word “insertion” appears to refer to further allocations which are made during the Bicameral Committee meetings which are not open to the public.

The bitter Senate battle on the issue of double allocations has exposed the dark side of the appropriations process which is kept from public scrutiny: the bicameral committee negotiations.

Finally, it is anticipated that the 2009 budget will provide appropriation cover for expenditures which were alleged to be without legal basis in the 2008 budget . Remember the P500 giveaway to electric consumers? It is believed that the 2009 budget will ensure that allocations for even more giveaways will be specifically mentioned this time.

It is fervently hoped that the gains in budget reform which were achieved during the last two years will be protected and even enhanced in Round 3.

The day the Young Turks sang

It was a day for music. Adel Tamano sang “I’ll Never Say Goodbye.” Gilbert Remulla crooned a popular hit. TG Guingona sang the classic Visayan song “Usahay”. Danton got away by reciting “Rain, rain go away, Bring with you, GMA.”

The occasion was the Young Turks Forum at the U.P. National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG). Adel, Gilbert, TG and Danton urged the SRO audience composed of students from U.P., Polytechnic University of the Philippines, City University of Caloocan, New Era University and the Eulogio Rodriquez School for Science and Technology to get involved in the electoral process by registering themselves as voters, participating in discussions about national issues and voting during elections.

Manila Concert Choir provided “choral music in the grand tradition” by singing “Pambansang Awit ” in martial tempo, delivering a powerful musical invocation based on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and singing two stirring nationalistic songs—“Kayumangging Malaya” and “Lupang Hinirang”—and the pop Tagalog love song, “Minsan Lang Kitang Iibigin.” More than one listener was moved to say “their hair stood on end” with Beethoven and “Lupang Hinirang.”

All in all, New Politics proved to be very enjoyable and palatable to the young with the Young Turks singing their advocacy while Manila Concert Choir’s soaring voices touched their hearts and reminded them of how wonderful it is to love God and country.

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Young Turks go to UP NCPAG, August 26

Greetings!

The University of the Philippines’ National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG) is celebrating its 56th year, along with UP’s 100 glorious years of existence. In recognition and support to the important responsibility of the said institutions in developing future leaders, the College’s Student Council plans to hold a forum dedicated to the youth sector entitled “What about YOUTH (Answering Queries of the Young)” on August 26, 2008, 1:00-5:00 P.M., at the NCPAG Assembly Hall.

The forum aims to inform the youth of the issues that confront them today. It also wishes to provide a venue for students to voice out their different concerns, engage them, and hear possible answers to their issues. Moreover, the said event seeks to educate and empower the students as part of the youth sector by making them realize that they can do something for our country and by rekindling the hope in their hearts.

In this light, the Student Council is humbly requesting your presence as one of our guest speakers. We hope that your group, the Young Turks, will consider our College as the second stop of your nationwide campus tour.

Looking forward for your favorable response. Thank you and more power.

In service of the students,

Shiela Mae M. Sabalburo Pebbles B. Sanchez
Chairperson Socio-Academic Affairs Administrator
0927-7881134 09275282080

Noted:

Dr. Leonor Magtolis-Briones
NCPAG Professor

PROJECT PROFILE

Title: What about YOUTH (Answering Queries of the Young)

Date: August 26, 2008, Tuesday

Time: 1:00-5:00 P.M.

Venue: Assembly Hall, National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City

I. Description:
“The youth is the hope of the fatherland,” our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal once said.

In the present times where our country and our society is experiencing turmoil and crisis, the call for the youth to voice out their opinion and concerns, actively participate and get involved is even louder. The youth is considered as a powerful force in the society, considering that they compose a big bloc of the Philippine population with a total of 26.6 million as of 2007. They are the next generation who will lead our country, so it is only proper to let their voices be heard and address the issues they are currently facing to equip them and provide ammunition to better serve the country in the near future.

A group of young politicians who call themselves the “Young Turks” is calling on the students to organize among themselves and help in forming a new political environment that would be directly advantageous for the youth sector. As part of this call, they are conducting nationwide campus tours. As head start, they have visited Silliman University last July 10 and 11. They engaged the students of Silliman in forum discussions that addressed the issues and concerns on education, politics, economics, culture, gender equality, and Filipino diaspora, among other concerns of the youth.

The Young Turks is composed of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Manila (PLM) President Adel Tamano, also spokesperson of the United Opposition (UNO) and an alumnus of UP NCPAG; Representative TG Guingona III of the 2nd District of Bukidnon; Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III of the 4th District of Quezon, the son of former Senator Wigberto Tanada and the grandson of nationalist Senator Lorenzo Tanada; Representative Gilbert Remulla, a former congressman, broadcaster and television personality; and Danton Remoto, chairman of Ang Ladlad Party List and professor of English at Ateneo.

It is their call that the youth must actively engage in government and society and that there should be room for everyone regardless of faith, religion, or sexual preference. With this, What about YOUTH (Answering Queries of the Young)*, is the second leg of their nationwide campus tour that has the following Objectives:

1. To inform the students of the issues that confront the youth of today
2. To provide a venue for the students to voice out their different concerns as youth, engage them and hear possible answers to their issues
3. To educate and empower the students as part of the youth sector by making them realize that they can do something for our country and by rekindling the hope in the hearts.

*The title “What about YOUTH” intends to inform the young with the realities and situations concerning them. In addition, it aims to suggest that the youth should be taken into consideration in solving various issues either on the individual, relational, national, or global level. The title entails a challenge to the youth sector as well.

Target Audience: 400 participants
Mechanics: A professor serves as the master of ceremony (onstage with the guests) while two students join the audience. The latter facilitates and solicits questions from the participants.

II. Tentative Flow of Program

PM (2-5pm) (1 pm Registration)

1:00 – 2:00 Registration
2:00 – 2:15 Musical Invocation Manila Concert Choir
National Anthem Manila Concert Choir
2:15 – 2:25 Welcome Remarks Dr. Alex Brillantes, Jr., NCPAG Dean
2:25 – 2:30 Opening Remarks Dr. Leonor Magtolis-Briones, NCPAG Professor
2:30 – 2:40 Introduction of Guests
2:40 – 3:05 Message to the Youth Atty. Adel Tamano, Rep. TG Guingona, Rep. Gilbert Remulla, Prof. Danton Remoto, and Rep. Erin Tanada’s message.

3:05 – 3:35 Talk Show Discussion
3:35 – 3:45 Intermission Manila Concert Choir
3:45 – 4:30 Continuation … Talk Show Discussion
4:30 – 4:45 Synthesis
4:45 – 5:00 Awarding of Tokens of Appreciation
Closing Remarks Shiela Mae M. Sabalburo, Chairperson NCPAG SC