Senator pushes for bill institutionalizing publication of ‘The People’s Budget’

(MANILA BULLETIN) Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada is now seeking the passage of a bill that would institutionalize the publication of the so-called “The People’s Budget” or a simplified version of the annual national budget and other similar documents. 
In filing Senate Bill No. 2251 or the proposed “The People’s Budget Act of 2023,” Estrada said it is imperative to allow greater citizen participation in the crafting, implementing and monitoring of the national budget, in pursuit of an enhanced budget process. 
“The General Appropriations Act (GAA) is one of the major national policy instruments which chart the development of the country and interventions of the government in addressing society’s ills,” Estrada said in the explanatory note of the bill. 
“It is one of the most important pieces of legislation which entails a whole-of-nation approach, and requires the active engagement of the Filipino people, who are ultimately the end beneficiaries,” the senator stressed. 
Estrada said the “People’s Budget” was conceived and first implemented in 2011. The document, then, presented a concise and condensed version of the GAA that is “otherwise, a highly technical and voluminous material.”
The first edition, he said, contained a summary of the GAA, including budgetary allocations for priority programs and projects, and the basics of the Philippine budget processes. 
“Since then, the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) regularly published the same, which was known as the ‘Badyet ng Bayan’ and ‘Pinagtibay na Badyet ng Bayan’ and was published in English, Tagalog and Bisaya,” he noted. 
Estrada also said passage of the bill into law would enhance transparency and accessibility to the national budget. 
Based on the Open Budget Survey 2021, which measured and assessed three components of budget accountability across 120 countries, the Philippines obtained an adequate score of 74/100 in terms of budget oversight; and 68/100 in terms of transparency. 
But in terms of public participation, the Philippines drew only a few or 35/100 score.
“With respect to transparency, the country secured lower score compared to 2019 at 76/100 but higher compared in 2006 at 51/100,” he noted. 
“Meanwhile, in terms of public participation, the country regressed over the years, when compared to its earlier score of 41/100 in 2017,” he further said.
Under the bill, the DBM is mandated to promulgate a Calendar of Disclosures, and shall publish the same on the government website. Such calendar shall contain the schedule of release of all budget documents and information. 
The DBM shall, then, monitor and periodically report to Congress and the public on the compliance of agencies with the Calendar of Disclosures and other fiscal transparency measures.
All budget documents and reports shall automatically be made available electronically in the government website. 
Meanwhile, current and historical data regarding government revenues, expenditures, and borrowings, shall be made available electronically, in open data format, on the government website, subject to guidelines established in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR).