Senate urged to make participation of CSOs in budget process easier

Social Watch Philippines (SWP) called on the Senate to adopt the amendments proposed by civil society organizations on the bill institutionalizing people’s participation in the budget process.

Since 2006, SWP has been advocating for the passage of a law on people’s participation in the budget process. Two separate bills have been filed in the House of the Representatives (House Bill 7407) and the Senate (Senate Bill 24), with the former having been approved on third reading.

During the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation TWG meeting held last week, SWP raised the need for simplified accreditation requirements for all non-government organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), and people’s organizations (POs). SWP also asked the Committee to advance child participation in the bill by including representatives from the children’s sector in the eligible groups or individuals to participate in the budget process.

“Based on the third reading version of House Bill 7407, we still believe that the scope is quite restrictive as the bill does not allow for the optimal participation of CSOs and individuals”, SWP explained.

SWP likewise expressed elation that House Bill 7407 incorporated the penalty provision for non-recognition of legitimate CSOs and POs in the earlier iteration, House Bill 230[i]. “This will be crucial for the effective enforcement of people’s participation in the budget process”, SWP exclaimed.

“We humbly request the Senate to adopt the same penal provision for its version of the bill”, SWP made the manifestation before the Committee.

There will be another TWG meeting on April 27, where the rest of the components of the SWP position on simpler accreditation procedures, wider extent of participation, timely access to relevant documents and invitations to budget deliberations, including the bicameral conference meetings, and provision for trainings and shouldering cost of participation will be put forward before the Committee.

“In the end, we pray that the esteemed Committee accepts and integrates our inputs to the key provisions of the measure for wider and meaningful CSO participation, and minimize, if not, eliminate barriers for participation,” SWP said.

“We hope that the Senate does follow the footsteps of the House and pass the bill in the remaining sessions of the 18th Congress allowing for the President to sign it into law before his term ends”, SWP concluded.

[i] SWP-recommended provision which was incorporated in Section 13 Penal Provisions, House Bill 7407: Any person who shall willfully restrain or prevent a CSO or a representative of a CSO, as well academics and experts, and other individual and organized stakeholders, from participating in participatory budgeting mechanisms stipulated under this Act, or violate any of the provisions hereof, shall suffer a penalty of suspension of three (3) months to six (6) months if such person is a government officer or employee, whether elected or appointed, or a fine of not less than Fifty Thousand Pesos (₱50,000) but not more than One Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱100,000), or both at the discretion of the court.”