The Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI), a consortium of 60 nongovernment organizations which initiated legislator-civil society partnership for better allocation for social development, called on legislators to first concentrate on fast tracking the passage of laws to empower the people before concentrating on preparations for the 2010 elections.
"There are many bills that will greatly improve the lives of teachers, of health workers, of millions of families living in poverty but all these bills are sitting on the shelves as the elections draw nearer," said former national treasurer Leonor Magtolis Briones, lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, which organized the ABI.
The ABI has been constantly holding dialogues with Senators and Congressmen for the passage of bills for education, health, environment, agriculture and people's participation in the budget process. One of the bills that civil society groups had been painstakingly working for is the bill titled "Act Institutionalizing the Active Participation of Bona Fide People's Organizations and Non-Government Organizations in the Annual National Budget Hearings in Congress and Budget Deliberations in Local Government Units, And Providing Effective Mechanisms Therefore".
"We hope that the Congress and Senate will immediately approve the law institutionalizing people's participation in the budget process. The ABI and partner legislators Cong. Erin Tanada and Cong. Teofisto Guingona III had been pushing for the passage of such law for already three years. Senator Panfilo Lacson is pushing for a similar bill in Senate," Briones said. She explained that SWP was the nongovernment organization that was invited by the House Committee on People's Participation to officially submit its inputs to the Bill.
"We will conduct a signature campaign on this bill in Senate and House of Representatives so that many legislators will be co-sponsors of this bill. We call on or Senators and Congressmen to support this initiative," Briones added.
Meanwhile, Cecilia Soriano of Education Network, also a member of ABI, called on the Committees on Education of both Houses to fast track consolidation and approval of bills for education. This includes the modifications on the Roxas Law and Magna Carta for Teachers as well as bills to increase financing for education. "We have been in constant dialogues with Senators and Congressmen for the passage of laws for education. They should prioritize these laws if they want to really win the hearts of the education sector," Soriano said.
Sabyte Lacson of the La Liga Policy Institute and ABI's Environment Cluster called on legislators to finally concentrate on the release of funds for social development programs. "The Department of Budget and Management says that funds are not released, such as those for community based forest management, because the legislators who sponsored the laws do not follow up on the release of the funds. We call on our Senators and Congressmen to check the status of the allocations they sponsored so that the people may fully benefit from public funds," Lacson said
"The concrete way for the politicians to prove that they are sincere to the people, is not through flowery promises, but to immediately work on the passage of laws to uplift the lives of the poor and to fight for people's welfare by working on the release of public funds for social programs," Briones said.