Akbayan to Aquino: Re-energize the campaign for reforms

 

As President Benigno Simeon Aquino III prepares to deliver his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA), Akbayan Party-list urged him to “reenergize the campaign for reforms” by carrying out “deeper and broader institutional changes” in his last two years in office.

“The credibility and momentum of the reform thrust of the Aquino administration hangs in the balance. Partly because the enemies of reform have to some extent succeeded in muddling the narrative of the people’s anti-corruption campaign and partly because we are now straining against the boundaries of a reform campaign still constrained by the limits of a traditional political system,” Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said.

Bello said that the best way to re-energize the campaign for reforms is to pursue strategic changes beyond the expectations provided by the political system.

“President Aquino should use this year’s SONA as an occasion to re-energize the forces of reform by rallying the people under the banner of strategic and structural changes. By pushing for deeper institutional reforms, he will disarm his critics and isolate the noisy few howling once again for impeachment,” Bello said.

Akbayan said that some of the reforms that the Aquino administration must pursue in its last two years are: 1) the completion of land reform under CARPER, 2) the passage of the FoI bill, 3) implementation of legislative-led budget reform measures as a way forward to the DAP issue, 4) passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, 5) major restructuring of the energy sector by repealing or radically amending the EPIRA Law, 6) enactment of “green laws” such as the Alternative Mineral Management Bill and the National Land Use Act, 7) adoption of the political party reform act, 8) pushing for the workers’ security of tenure law, and 9) prosecution of all those who squandered the public’s fund regardless of political color and affiliation.

New economic paradigm

Bello added that the Aquino administration must use its remaining years to help in laying down a new paradigm for sustained development.

“Continuous adherence to the old neoliberal model can erode the gains that the administration has made in the last four years, probably much faster than the schemes mounted by the detained plunderers to undermine President Aquino. The President still enjoys a popular mandate, and that political capital must be used to mobilize institutions to the path of a new and progressive macroeconomic model,” Bello explained.

“Last two minutes”

The veteran Akbayan lawmaker said Aquino is in the “last two minutes of his game.”

“To use an analogy from basketball, President Aquino’s administration is entering the crucial last two minutes of the game. Being the team captain, President Aquino must step up his game; rally the people to a ‘full court press’ to defend and further their gains, make best use of the remaining time, and deliver victory for the people,” Bello said.

Budget reforms

For his part, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said that President Aquino can provide fresh impetus to the people’s struggle for reforms by finding ways to move forward on the issue of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

“We are glad that the President has filed a motion for reconsideration (MR) on the Supreme Court ruling on the DAP. This action clearly demonstrated his commitment to the constitutional route and legal-institutional framework of checks and balances. However, the solution to the current debate on the proper extent of the Executive’s power over the budget lies in legislation. Congress holds the power of the purse, and it is Congress that must be mobilized to lay down clearer and stronger rules defining Executive power over the budget,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said that while, in his view, current laws “very explicitly” gave the President the authority to implement a program such as DAP, the SC decision made it apparent that there is a need for clarifying legislation.

Gutierrez specifically called for the enactment of the 1) Savings and Augmentation Bill, 2) Budget Impoundment Control Bill, and 3) Budget Reform Bill.

The Savings and Augmentation Bill or House Bill No. 2256 seeks to clearly define the scope of “savings” and provide a definitive process for the use of the same in augmenting other government programs.

On the other hand, the Budget Impoundment Control bill or HB 2257 aims to ensure that proper limits and procedures are in place in the exercise of the president’s authority to defer, rescind and reserve expenditures already approved by Congress.

The Budget Reform Bill or HB 3128 was filed to amend and/or repeal certain provisions of the country’s budget system, as provided in Book VI of Executive Order No. 292, or ‘The Revised Administrative Code of 1987,’ whose budget provisions figured prominently in the current discussions on DAP.

“The DAP debate is obviously being used by some quarters to deflect attention from the plunder charges filed against the detained lawmakers over the multi-billion Napoles pork barrel scam. However, we believe one of the best ways to counter this attempt at obfuscation is for President Aquino to support the passage of the important budget reform bills. President Aquino must convert their tool of obfuscation into a tool for transformation,” Gutierrez said.

Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain

Gutierrez said that there is a strong need for President Aquino to reform and regulate the Executive’s fiscal powers under his term.

“President Aquino must pursue reforms even if, in the short term, it may appear to diminish his own fiscal authority. This will go hand in hand with the other important budget reforms his government has made through the years such as the bottom-up budgeting, early enactment of the national budget, and disaggregation of lump sum funds. This exercise in institutional self-limitation is necessary to ensure that the public’s fund will be protected and secured in the future from those who would seek to abuse it for their own gain,” Gutierrez said.

“As they say, to move forward it is sometimes necessary to take a step back. In the same manner, we hope President Aquino will realize that in putting in place clearer and stronger safeguards on the Executive’s fiscal powers, he is actually making himself more powerful in the eyes of the people and is taking a firm and decisive move to secure his place in history as a true champion of reform,” Gutierrez concluded. ###

Akbayan pushes for legislative solution to Palace-SC impasse, proposes Congress-led budget reform

Rep. Ibarra "Barry" Gutierrez III

Rep. Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez III

 

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez on Wednesday urged his colleagues in Congress to work for the swift and immediate passage of a set of budget reform bills that would clarify and strengthen existing rules governing Executive control over the budget, as a way forward from the impasse arising from the recent Supreme Court decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

“The solution to the current debate on the proper extent of the Executive’s power over the budget lies in legislation. Congress holds the power of the purse, and it is Congress that must lay down clearer and stronger rules defining Executive power over the budget,” Gutierrez said.

The lawmaker emphasized that the DAP decision was largely anchored on existing provisions of various laws and not the Constitution.

“As such, and as acknowledged in the separate opinion of Justice Del Castillo, the weakness of our existing laws governing the budget must be addressed by Congress. The Court has laid bare the shortcomings of the law, Congress must now take up the challenge of bolstering it through new legislation,” he explained.

He added that while, in his view, current laws “very explicitly” gave the President the authority to implement a program such as DAP, the SC decision made it apparent that there is a need for clarifying legislation.

Gutierrez specifically called for the enactment of the 1) Savings and Augmentation Bill, 2) Budget Impoundment Control Bill, and 3) Budget Reform Bill.

Gutierrez said the Savings and Augmentation Bill or House Bill No. 2256 seeks to clearly define the scope of “savings” and provide a definitive process for the use of the same in augmenting other government programs.

On the other hand, the Budget Impoundment Control bill or HB 2257 aims to ensure that proper limits and procedures are in place in the exercise of the president’s authority to defer, rescind and reserve expenditures already approved by Congress. This addresses the need to guarantee that appropriations are utilized based on the work and financial plans of agencies and that these are automatically released through advices of allotment.

To clinch the overall reform of the budget system, the Budget Reform Bill or HB 3128 was filed to amend and/or repeal certain provisions of the country’s budget system, as provided in Book VI of Executive Order No. 292, or ‘The Revised Administrative Code of 1987,’ whose budget provisions figured prominently in the current discussions on DAP.

Gutierrez, who is also a former University of the Philippines law professor and Director of the UP Institute of Human Rights, explained that Book VI of Executive Order No. 292, or ‘The Revised Administrative Code of 1987,’ is the primary implementing law on the powers and limitations of both the Executive and Legislative in the preparation, authorization and implementation of the national budget.

“The Revised Administrative Code borrows heavily from the Presidential Decree No. 1177 or the ‘Budget Reform Decree of 1977’, and it is well past time that Congress reviewed this old law with a view to updating it to meet the needs of contemporary times,” he further explained.

Gutierrez emphasized that the key to resolving the apparent impasse on DAP and restoring balance in the government is the passage of the three budget reform bills.

“No less than a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach is needed in order to achieve the desirable balance between fiscal flexibility and a guarantee of accountability,” he said.

“Congress must presently take these necessary steps to ensure that the budget process is truly reflective of the spirit and noble intent of the Constitution, and that of the will of the people,” Gutierrez concluded.###

Rep. Gutierrez lauds signing of unity manifesto by frats, youth orgs against hazing, but insists more reforms needed

Panelists from different fraternities signing a manifesto of cooperation to uphold the anti-hazing law. Photo credit: National Youth Commission Facebook Page

 

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez on Wednesday lauded the signing of a unity manifesto by various fraternities and youth groups who committed to stop hazing practices and help end hazing-related deaths and violence, but insisted more action is needed.

“In almost two decades since the Anti-Hazing Law took effect, it is very alarming that a lot of our promising young people continue to lose their lives to hazing during fraternity initiation rites. This must not be tolerated,” Gutierrez said.

“The signing and launching of the unity manifesto that commits groups, fraternities and sororities to ban hazing within their organizations, is a step in the right direction. But we must also ensure that this manifesto will translate into more substantial, institutional reforms within these organizations and in our law on hazing,” the lawmaker added.

 

The manifesto, which was signed earlier today, following a discussion meeting on hazing convened by the National Youth Commission (NYC), was crafted after the death of De La Salle University-Benilde sophomore college student, Guillo Cesar Servando, and the recent exposure of a hazing incident during which a UP Diliman student sustained severe injuries.

Zero-tolerance hazing policy within frats, orgs

Gutierrez also urged the elders and members of the different fraternities and other organizations to take a stance and to create alternative ways to usher in new members within their groups without exposing them to violence and fatal risks.

“Hazing is a well-known practice, but very difficult to monitor, like identifying its victims and perpetrators, due to a very strong culture of silence within and among groups who administer them. For practical changes to come about, there must be an internal desire and commitment among organizations and their leaders to end the practice and to consciously pursue hazing prevention efforts,” the lawmaker said.

“From these groups who attended the discussion and signed the manifesto, we hope that they will lead the institution of zero-tolerance policy on hazing within their organizations and the creation of a comprehensive plan to prevent its possible occurrences. This could be done by integrating methods for tracking, reporting, and preventing of the incidence of hazing,” he added.

Stronger and more effective anti-hazing law

Gutierrez also urged the different signatories of the manifesto to contribute in the formation of a proposed measure aimed at making the existing anti-hazing law more effective.

“I am also urging these different groups to take active part in the efforts being made by Congress to formulate a stronger and more effective anti-hazing law, possibly through amendments of the current law, and to make it more implementable and effective in holding perpetrators accountable,” he said.

Early on, Gutierrez called for a comprehensive review of the 1995 Anti-Hazing Law to determine the necessary amendments that will make the measure more effective. He also pushed for the adoption of a tracking system to monitor the schools’ compliance with the law, including a database on all hazing cases and perpetrators.

“We need to send strong message to everyone that hazing is not tolerated and that all who engage in it will be held accountable. We cannot, and should not, allow this senseless slaughter of our young people to continue unchallenged,” Gutierrez concluded.###

Rep. Barry Gutierrez urges Congress to conduct comprehensive review of all hazing incidents, Anti-Hazing Law

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez on Tuesday called for an immediate and comprehensive review of the Anti-Hazing Law amid the continuing occurrence of hazing-related deaths among students during the process of initiation rites in fraternities and other organizations.

“In the 19 long years since the Anti-Hazing Law took effect, it is very alarming that young men continue to lose their lives to hazing during fraternity initiation rites,” Gutierrez said.

“There is an urgent need to review the law and introduce whatever amendments are necessary to end the senseless deaths of so many of our promising young men,” he added.

Republic 8095, also known as the Anti-Hazing Act, is a law criminalizing hazing and imposing penalties on persons who inflict injuries or cause death during the process. For a hazing-related death, the law imposes the appropriately stiff penalty of reclusion perpetua, or imprisonment from 20 to 40 years, on those found responsible.

“Every year, despite the law, young men continue to die from this very inhumane and degrading method of initiation rites among certain fraternities and other organizations,” Gutierrez said. “This cannot be tolerated.”

While supposedly grounded on the idea that it builds a person’s character, camaraderie and loyalty, “hazing” is being used as a process of initiation into a fraternity or other organization which involves subjecting an applicant to humiliation, psychological stress, and in some cases, actual physical assault.

Create a monitoring system, tracking database of all hazing cases

While calling for a review, Gutierrez also urged the government to create a comprehensive tracking system that will closely monitor the compliance of universities and colleges with the law.

“There must be a monitoring system in place that will determine how universities and colleges track hazing reports, conduct anti-hazing education campaigns, and enforce the necessary disciplinary actions against perpetrators,” Gutierrez said.

The lawmaker also pushed for the creation of a national database of all hazing-related incidents, their perpetrators and organizations.
“There is a need to create a database on all hazing cases and perpetrators. This will allow the government to take action against organizations and perpetrators who repeatedly allow this kind of practice to prevail,” Gutierrez said.

“We need to send strong message to everyone that hazing is not tolerated and that all who engage in it will be held accountable. We cannot, and should not, allow this senseless slaughter of our young people to continue unchallenged,” Gutierrez concluded.###