Admin solons bicker over budget hearings transparency

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    CAGAYAN de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez yesterday questioned the House leadership’s decision to allow the public to ask questions to resource persons during budget deliberations, a move that irked appropriations panel chair ACTS-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap who sarcastically told the lawmaker that the House will just ban the public from participating because of him.

    The heated exchange took place at the beginning of the budget deliberations on the proposed P8.8 billion budget for 2021 of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

    When Yap announced that the committee will open its discussions to the public and allow interested parties or groups to participate by letting them ask questions, Rodriguez raised the question: “Are we allowing non-members of the House of Representatives to propose questions to our resource persons? That would be against the rules. Committee of Appropriations hearings are for members of Congress.”

    It was Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano himself who announced that the appropriations committee will allow people’s organizations, the academe through university thinktanks, and non-governmental organization to participate in the committee deliberations.

    Rodriguez said the House rules are clear that the public can ask questions through their district representatives. “That is our rules. Unless we amend our rules in the plenary, the rule stays,” said the lawyerlawmaker who chairs the committee on constitutional amendments. Rodriguez apparently did not now that the Speaker has already made it clear that the questions will be coursed through the vice chairmen, who, in turn, will be the one to articulate it during the discussions with resource persons.

    The statement annoyed Yap who told Rodriguez: “Kung ayaw niyong marinig ang boses ng mga ordinaryong tao dito sa floor (If you  don’t want the voice of ordinary people heard here on the floor), by  your suggestion, I can do that.”

    “Okay, we follow the rules of the House. Huwag natin pakinggan ang boses ng ibang tao (Let’s  not listen to the voices of other people) according to Cong. Rufus  Rodriguez, then let’s do it. Thank you for your suggestion,” he said.

    Sources in the House leadership said public participation will remain since it is clearly allowed by the rules.

    “They (House members) shall  undertake measures and establish systems to ensure that constituencies, sectors or groups whose welfare and interests are directly affected by measures to be discussed are enabled to participate in these meetings of public hearings,” the House rules said.