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National

Budget watchdog SWP joins 6.12.14 protest coalition

InterAksyon.com photograph by Bernard Testa

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - The budget watchdog group, Social Watch Philippines (SWP), has added its voice to the call against pork-linked corruption, to be manifested in the upcoming mass protest at the Kartilya ng Katipunan, Bonifacio Shrine in the afternoon of June 12, 2013.

The Independence Day Protest Coalition is encouraging civil society organizations and individuals to take part in the demonstration of outrage and disgust at the country’s pork-related scandals and pork- involved politicians.

Prof. Emeritus Leonor Magtolis Briones, who was formerly National Treasurer and now Lead Convenor of Social Watch Philippines, says that the pressure to push for budget reforms must come from citizens.

The pork barrel system is still very much around, according to Prof. Briones.

"In spite of the Supreme Court decision declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional, and declarations that it has supposedly gone away, the pork barrel system itself is very much alive. It was just reallocated to DOH, DSWD, DPWH, DOLE and CHED for 2014, with the fund already 'reserved' for congressmen," Briones articulated.

"Both the Executive and the Legislative benefit from the pork barrel. The Executive benefits because its proposed budget is passed with little protest from the Legislative and the latter is given a chunk of the budget under its discretion. This discretion has made the fund vulnerable to corruption and abuse from politicians," she explained.

For her part, one of the SWP convenors, Prof. Marivic Raquiza of the University of the Philippines, also says that issues in public finance and citizens' empowerment are inextricable from social development: "The politicians benefit from this system but we obviously do not. It's up to us; the citizens, civil society organizations, and the mass media, to call for greater transparency and accountability in government about where our taxes are going.

"We also need to take part in the budget process to achieve the much needed developmental goals of this country, like ensuring social protection, education, and eliminating poverty."

The public has to watch out for other lump sums aside from the PDAF, Briones disclosed. "The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and Special Purpose Funds are lump sums with little transparency in how they are spent." warned Briones.

“We not only need to eliminate the pork barrel, but we need to eliminate the culture of corruption that has plagued our country for too long," Briones added.

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