Siquijor Rerpresentative Rav Rocamora today chided the program replacing the BuB after Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1 of the DILG and the DBM removed citizens’ participation from the program for the 2017 budget. The new program, called ‘Assistance to Disadvantaged Municipalities Program,’ deleted CSO participation from the entire process of crafting projects for implementation.
“Without citizen’s participation the program is not just dead, it has become a zombie. People’s involvement in the entire process of proposing projects for implementation was the innovation that BuB introduced. It was an exercise in democracy. The Joint Memorandum Circular in effect removes the brains behind the program,” Rocamora said.
“The only involvement that civil society was given was to ‘concur’ with the municipal mayor’s choice of projects. Even the menu for projects was reduced to water system projects, evacuation facilities, local access roads, small water impounding projects, and sanitation facilities. The old menu provided a host of projects that targeted the poorest of the poor such as capacity-building for people’s organizations, housing projects, fish landings for small fishermen, and a lot more,” he added.
Rocamora also said that civil society and peoples’ involvement in the budget process was an effective mechanism to prevent corruption and patronage politics.
“Greater citizens’ involvement and participation is the strongest guarantee against patronage politics. Kung kasali ang mamamayan, magdadalawang isip ang pulitiko na ibulsa o ibigay sa mga kaibigan niya ang pera ng bayan,” Rocamora said.
“Imbes na gamiting ‘slush fund’ ng local politicians for political favors, yung pondo magagamit para sa mga actual projects na pakikinabangan ng mga constituents, he added.
“I hope Sec. Sueno and Sec. Diokno reinstate citizen’s participation in the program, otherwise, we are risking billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money becoming tools for patronage,” Rocamora stressed.
Vow to push institutionalization of participatory budgeting
The lawmaker also vowed to push for the passage of House Bill No. 3429 or the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Act to institutionalize civil society and people’s participation for future national budgets.
“The aim of the bill is to bring the budgeting process closer to the people. When people have a say in how government funds should be spent they overwhelmingly prioritize much needed services and projects. This was the experience with the BuB for 3 years, this will be the same for an institutionalized participatory budgeting,” Rocamora stressed.
On the chances of the bill’s passage, Rocamora said, “we already have 58 supporters in the House of Representatives for our Joint House Resolution No. 4 which called for the continuation of the BuB projects in 2017 national budget. I’m more than confident that most, if not all, will support its’ institutionalization.”
Rocamora is one of the main authors of Joint House Resolution No. 4 together with Rep. Carmel Lazatin II (1stDistrict, Pampanga), Rep. Tom Villarin (Akbayan Party-list), Rep. Teddy Baguilat (Ifugao). Senator Risa Hontiveros is the main author of Senate Resolution No. 60, the counterpart measure in the Senate.