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.
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. ###