Cayetano touts public participation in the budget process


    ‘The idea is workable and honorable, done with good intentions. There is one glitch, though.’

    WITH the way Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano dishes out fantastic ideas and outlandish promises, we cannot help but be reminded of another Speaker of the House of Representatives in a past epoch: Jose de Venecia Jr. It was De Venecia’s style to always quote big numbers, high and huge dreams, such as when he advocated the planting of hundreds of millions of trees.

    Well, Speaker-until-October Alan Peter may be credited for vowing, and probably successfully achieving, the approval of the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget in record time within this month. He has in fact used moral suasion to convince fellow congressmen like Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro to postpone discussions on Charter change to next year, and concentrate all efforts at approving the budget.

    Now Cayetano has come up with another game-changing innovation, along the dramatic style of JDV. The Speaker said the House of Representatives will make history by allowing the public to “directly participate” in the budget hearings.

    The Speaker’s bright idea is timely because the legislature has by now gotten the hang of modern technology as used in communicating sans the usual face-to-face mode. Zoom and other applications and online platforms have enabled various groups to conduct seminars, conferences and meetings without seeing each other personally, thus lessening the chances of virus infections. The system has been widely used by the Senate and the House since the start of the pandemic last March, and since then, the English word “virtual” took on another shade of meaning.

    The House leadership announced that budget hearings to be conducted through face-to-face and virtual system will start Friday under the Committee on Appropriations chaired by ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap.

    “Since the start of this pandemic, Congress has taken advantage of these new technologies to continue doing our work. Now, as we deliberate on the budget, we can use these same systems to allow our fellow citizens — not just to watch — but to directly participate in the process.

    “We are the House of the People. We will be discussing the people’s money so the people should have a voice. They should be able to give us their opinion, tell us what they want us to prioritize, and witness the process firsthand,” Cayetano said in a statement.

    The Speaker also stressed that public participation is the “best way to ensure accountability among public officials” as it guarantees transparency.

    The idea is workable and honorable, done with good intentions. There is one glitch, though. As organizers of the Zoom meeting, the House leaders will get to pick who among the public will be allowed to participate. This will ensure that filibusters, critics, crackheads and similar low life in the national discourse can be filtered out.