Bicolano solons want more gov’t transparency

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Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona Robredo of Camarines Sur’s third congressional district. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona Robredo of Camarines Sur’s third congressional district. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By Joseph John J. Perez

LEGAZPI CITY, 11July2013 – Bicolano Senator Francis Joseph “Chiz” Escudero of Sorsogon and Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona Robredo of Camarines Sur’s third congressional district, filed separate bills that both seek more transparency in the government bureaucracy.

Among the early birds in the lower and upper houses, Escudero filed Senate Bill 16 as his first bill for the 16th Congress and Robredo filed House Bill (HB) 19 last week week prior to the official opening of the sessions of both houses this month.

Escudero’s bill, also know as Submission of Waiver of Bank Deposits Bill, will provide public accessibility to financial records of government officials and those who are aspiring for government positions by signing waivers on the secrecy of their bank deposits as attachments to their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Robredo’s Full Disclosure Bill, on the other hand, seeks full disclosure of all information of fiscal management from all government departments and offices, local government units, and government-owned and controlled corporations and subsidiaries.

“This is a transparency move I advocated several years ago that I am bent to pursue with a fresh mandate given to me by the people,” Escudero said. The re-filed measure is an articulation of the fight against graft and corruption as promised during the campaign, Escudero added.

Senate Bill 16 provides that all public officials and employees except those who serve in an honorary capacity are required to submit to the Ombudsman a written waiver allowing the Ombudsman to look into all deposits with banks or banking institutions both within and outside the Philippines of whatever nature including investment bonds issued by the government of the Philippines.

Escudero earlier filed the measure in 2010 to seek mandatory signing of bank waivers as off-shoot of the controversy then involving the illegal use of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) funds. The recent controversy in the judiciary also brought light to the importance of truthful entries on the SALN that can be facilitated if the waiver on bank secrecy exists.

Meanwhile, Robredo’s Full Disclosure Bill will require all government agencies including its instrumentality to ensure availability of information on their budget and financial transactions even with no official requests from the public. This measure will allow people to access the data any time without any burden of technicalities and bureaucratic red tape.

The proposed measure originated from DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2010-83 issued in August 2010 ordering local government units and the DILG regional offices to report their finances as well as bids and public offerings.

Earlier versions of this bill were previously filed by Senator Franklin Drilon and former Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya in January 2011 and August 2012, respectively.

“(Government) funds are the hard-earned money of the people that should be spent judiciously and only for the common good,” Robredo said. She also stressed the significance of public awareness on how government funds are managed, disbursed, and used.

Meanwhile, Escudero challenged his fellow lawmakers to initiate the transparency advocacy by enacting his bill into law.

Taking the lead, Escudero signed a waiver last April 25 upon filing his SALN before the Senate Secretary.

“Government service is a privilege and not a right, therefore everyone working in and those who plan to join the government should open their finances to audit,” Escudero said.

“(Financial disclosure) will augment our people’s efforts in creating a more transparent and accountable government,” Robredo said. (PIA5, Albay)

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