Open Government Partnership: The Winds Have Changed In Our Country

The launching of  Open Government Policy as initiated by Pres. Obama  and Brazil President Dilma Rousseff a couple of days ago wherein the Philippines is a member of the Steering Committee is a clear signal of Pres. Aquino’s unquestionable commitment to steering our country to higher standards of governance. “We have created a roadmap called the 2012 Philippine Government Action Plan to ensure that our government institutions are at par with international transparency standards,”  President Aquino said.

This is good music to the ears. Finally, I think I can proudly identify  myself with our government for now I feel that my clamor for reforms in our politics is being realized. Hence, the winds have changed in the Philippines. When before we were just being insulted by the President and the people around her, when before we were almost worn out reading and writing about  all the scams  of the syndicate Arroyo administration,  their plundering of the national and local treasuries, the rigging of elections, etc., when in the past we have lost our trust to our national government, now it seems that these are being blown away by the winds, that now we feel good when reading about the developments in our country. It’s hard times and harsh winds now for those who enriched themselves in the past  at the expense of the people. Again, crime  against the people doesn’t pay.

If President Obama can applaud our President Aquino for his reforms, then why shouldn’t I? Hence, I have found it necessary to reprint here the articles below on Open Govenment Partneship, specifically our government’s  draft of its Action Plan 2012.

Regarding our town Bulan, I specifically highlight 2 points, the one under Starting the Tradition of Transparency which reads:

  • Transparency in Local Governance. The Department of Interior and Local Government department has required in August 2010 all Local Government Units (LGUs) to post in local bulletin boards, newspapers and websites information on their utilization of funds and implementation of projects. As of August 26, 2011, 70 provinces, 130 cities and 1,305 municipalities have complied with this policy.ix

For those interested in examining in details the  THE ANNUAL BUDGET OF THE LOCAl GOVERNMENT UNIT OF BULAN FOR FISCAL YEAR 2011 please click here.

The other point is to be found under Institutionalizing Public Accountability which reads:

  • Performance Challenge for Local Governments – The Interior and Local Government department launched the LGU Performance Challenge Fund program in 2010 as an effort to institutionalize transparency, accountability, participation and performance in LGUs. Under this program, LGUs that exhibited strong performance in key areas of governance earned a Seal of Good Housekeeping and a chance to avail of additional budgetary support from the Fund. As of 2011, 44 provinces, 60 cities and 758 municipalities have obtained a Seal of Good Housekeeping.xxiv

May we know from the Mayor of Bulan Helen de Castro if our town has obtained this Seal Of Good Housekeeping?

jun asuncion

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Country Commitments

Philippines

20 September 2011
Commitments Delivered
  • Introduction
  • Efforts to Date
  • Commitments

Philippine Government Action Plan 2012
for the Open Government Partnership
1 January to 31 December 2012.

A Discussion Document

—DRAFT—

Note on Status (as of 15 September 2011): this is a working draft of the Philippine Government Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership (OGP). This was crafted after soliciting inputs from Cabinet officials1 and after conducting initial consultations with stakeholders. 
During the preparatory period of October to December 2011, this Philippine OGP Action Plan will be subject to further refinements as well as to broader public consultations with stakeholders. After a final plan has been approved by the President, implementation will commence in January 2012. 
* * *

Institutionalizing People Power in Governance To Ensure Direct, Immediate and Substantial Benefits to the Poor

On February 25, 1986, the Filipino People toppled a dictatorship after four days of nonviolent protest. Crying out “tama na, sobra na!”ii  the people poured out into the streets after heeding the call of religious and civic leaders to protect rebel soldiers and thereby end the decades-long dictatorship of Ferdinand E. Marcos, with its corruption, human rights violations and worsening poverty. The EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986 culminated in the inauguration of Corazon C. Aquino—housewife of a martyriii of Martial Law—as President of the Philippines.
Twenty-five years after this historical milestone, the Philippines has a new opportunity to put the aspirations of People Power for reform back on track. With a resounding mandateiv, President Benigno S. Aquino III won in the last May 2010 elections to replace an administration plagued with allegations of massive corruption, a lack of political legitimacy and an inability to address the widening gap between rich and poor. His campaign message, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,v resonated with an electorate yearning for change.
President Aquino made a Social Contract with the Filipino People, where he committed to be the nation’s first and most determined fighter of corruption, and where he envisions the rebuilding of public institutions that operate under the highest standards of integrity and on solidarity with the people. The Philippine Development Plan,vi which fleshes-out this Social Contract, is anchored on fighting corruption and establishing transparent, accountable and participatory governance as necessary preconditions to achieving poverty reduction, inclusive growth, enhanced peace and ecological integrity.
The motive force for these reforms is People Power: a paradigm for achieving the nation’s progress by ensuring the active and meaningful participation of citizens in public policy and programs. The Philippine Government aims to transform People Power from a nonviolent form of street protest to a means for citizens and workers in government to collaborate in the halls of government to ensure that the benefits of governance reaches the poor in a direct, immediate and substantial way. In contrast to the secrecy, impunity and collusion among selfish factions in the past, People Power seeks to widen the democratic space for citizens in their very own government.
The Philippine Government sees open government as a means to operationalize and institutionalize People Power. It will take on the vital challenges of improving public services, increasing public integrity and more effectively managing public resources: so that the Aquino administration’s vision of kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap can be fulfilled.
In crafting this Action Plan, the Philippine Government consulted with national networks of civil society organizations (CSOs)vii. This Action Plan is for implementation starting January 1, 2012; and the period of October to December 2011 will serve as the preparatory phase.
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Footnotes:

i Agency submissions so far: DBM, DepEd, DoE, DENR, DoF, DILG, DoJ, DoLE, DoST, DPWH, DND, NEDA, PCDSPO, PCOO, DSWD, DoT, DTI, NSA, OPAPP, PLLO, DAP. CSO Submissions so far: PinoyME, Right to Know, Right Now! Consultations with CSOs have been conducted on 26 August and 10 September, 2011.
ii Roughly translated as “enough is enough!”
iii Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., a staunch critic of the Marcos regime, was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon returning from exile from the United States.
iv Candidate Benigno S. Aquino III won as president with 15.2 million votes or 42% of all votes cast; with a lead of 5.7 million from the next contender (there were eight other candidates).
v Roughly translated as “No Corruption, No Poverty.”
vi The Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, as operationalized by Executive Order No. 43.
vii Namely: CodeNGO, BAG, SWP/ABI, TAN, ANSA-EAP, ATIN/Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, PPVR, PinoyME, MBC, CAC, Integrity Initiative and NCC.

Open Government Efforts to Date

Since the new Aquino administration took the helm on June 30, 2010, the Philippine Government has embarked on several initiatives to institute transparency, accountability and participation in governance, with the help of information technology.

Starting the Tradition of Transparency

  • Mandatory Disclosure of Budget Information. The Government has embedded provisions in the 2011 National Budget—its first financial blueprint—that mandate the publication of major information on budgets, finance and performance indicators in the websites of national departments and agencies.viii
  • Transparency in Local Governance. The Department of Interior and Local Government department has required in August 2010 all Local Government Units (LGUs) to post in local bulletin boards, newspapers and websites information on their utilization of funds and implementation of projects. As of August 26, 2011, 70 provinces, 130 cities and 1,305 municipalities have complied with this policy.ix
  • Official Gazette Online. The Government has embarked on placing the entire corpus of Laws and Supreme Court decisionsx and Presidential issuancesxi online for the first time,xii as well as daily updates from agencies.

Jumpstarting Citizen Participation

  • Participatory Budget Process. In crafting the 2012 National Budget, six departments and three government corporations piloted a consultative budget preparation process with CSOs.xiii To support citizen engagement, the Budget department has begun publishing the People’s Budget, a summarized and layman’s version of the annual National Budget.
  • Participatory Development Planning. The Government, through the National Economic and Development Authority, has conducted a series of public consultations in the crafting of the Philippine Development Plan for 2011 to 2016xiv. Citizen participation was also tapped for sector development planning; for instance, the Labor department has conducted consultations with labor, business, youth, academe and other stakeholders in crafting the Labor and Employment Plan for 2011-2016.
  • Partnerships for Effective Service Delivery. Agencies have entered into partnerships with stakeholders in monitoring program and project implementation. For instance, the Public Works department has partnered with a broad coalition of CSOs and other groups in monitoring public works projects.xv The Social Welfare department has entered into partnerships with 222 national and local CSOs and other groups for the monitoring of social protection programs including the conditional cash transfer program.xvi The Interior and Local Government department has also partnered with 28 national and 124 regional CSOs to help monitor transparency and accountability of LGUs.xvii

Institutionalizing Public Accountability

  • Results-Oriented Fiscal Management. Fiscal reform in the Aquino administration began with the reintroduction of the Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) approach in 2010. ZBB enables the government to review and terminate programs and projects that no longer deliver on intended outcomes, and to realign funding to other priorities especially in education and healthcare.xviii ZBB, together with the Medium-Term Expenditure Frameworkxix and the Organizational Performance Indicator Frameworkxx, paves the way for results-oriented fiscal management.
  • Accountability of Government Corporations. The Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations (GOCC) Governance Act of 2011 to address past abuses and patronage that made GOCCs virtual cash cows of previous government officials; promote their financial viability and fiscal discipline; and make GOCCs truly accountable to the people.
  • Citizen’s Charters and Citizen’s Report Cards. The Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 requires all agencies to craft a Citizen’s Charter to simplify procedures and facilitate transactions. To date, 71% of agenciesxxi have issued a Citizen’s Charter. It also provides that all government agencies providing frontline services shall be subjected to a Report Card Survey to obtain feedback regarding their implementation of the Citizen’s Charter.
  • Revenue Integrity. The Finance department has intensified its revenue integrity campaignsxxii, and has filed 184 tax evasion cases, 39 cases against suspected smugglers and 86 cases against suspected corrupt collection employees as of July 2011.xxiii
  • Performance Challenge for Local Governments – The Interior and Local Government department launched the LGU Performance Challenge Fund program in 2010 as an effort to institutionalize transparency, accountability, participation and performance in LGUs. Under this program, LGUs that exhibited strong performance in key areas of governance earned a Seal of Good Housekeeping and a chance to avail of additional budgetary support from the Fund. As of 2011, 44 provinces, 60 cities and 758 municipalities have obtained a Seal of Good Housekeeping.xxiv

Leveraging Technology and Innovation

  • Electronic Procurement. The Philippine Government E-Procurement System (PhilGEPS), which started in 2000, is mandated by law as the central electronic portal for government procurement. Key features at present include an electronic bulletin board for posting of bid notices and awards; a registry of more than 47,000 suppliers; automatic bid matching of opportunities with suppliers; and a virtual store of common-use supplies available from the Procurement Service, the government’s bulk buyer.
  • Targeting Social Protection Beneficiaries with Precision. The Government has an existing National Household Targeting System (NHTS) which identifies the poorest of the poor and aims to improve the service delivery systems to them. Such system, which is being used in identifying beneficiaries of national social protection programs, is expected to reduce the rate of leakage of resources and lessen exclusion of beneficiaries.
  • Digitizing Releases from Congressional Allocations – The Budget department has launched on June 2011 the Electronic Transparency and Accountability Initiative for Lump Sum Funds System (eTAILS), an information system that digitizes the processing of releases for Congressional Allocations and supports their timely online disclosure.xxv
  • Online Avenues for Public Feedback and Communication – The Finance department has launched its Pera ng Bayanxxvi  website where citizens can file anonymous reports or leads on possible tax evasion, smuggling and government collusion cases. Various other government agencies have tapped their websites and social media (Facebook and Twitter) in disseminating key information and soliciting public feedback.
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Footnotes:

viii Section 97 of the General Provisions of the 2011 General Appropriations Act (Republic Act No. 10147) requires agencies to post the following information on their official websites: approved budgets, performance measures and targets, major programs and projects to be implemented, annual procurement plan, contracts awarded and names of contractors, targeted and actual beneficiaries, utilization of funds, status of implementation, program/project evaluation reports.
ix State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2011 Technical Report, page 4, with updates from DILG
From 1901
xi From 1935
xii Memorandum approved by the President on editorial policies of the Official Gazette, 7 September, 2010; Budgetary Requirement for Fiscal Year 2012, submitted to the House of Representatives by the PCDSPO, August 10, 2011.
xiii SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 9-10. Departments which piloted the consultative process were those in the social and economic services sectors with the biggest budgetary allocation, namely: Education, Health, Social Welfare, Public Works, Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. Pilot government corporations were those with large government subsidies, particularly the National Food Authority, National Housing Authority and National Home Mortgage and Finance Corporation.
xiv NEDA input
xv SONA 2011 Technical Report
xvi Ibid.
xvii DILG Inputs
xviii SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 2
xix MTEF is a planning-budgeting framework which provides a three-year perspective to budget preparation.
xx OPIF is an approach to expenditure management that directs resources towards results or major final outputs and measures agency performance by key quality and quantity indicators.
xxi Of 2,266 national departments and agencies nationwide
xxii In particular, the Run After Tax Evaders of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; the Run After The Smugglers of the Bureau of Customs; and the Revenue Integrity Protection Service of the Finance department.
xxiii SONA 2011 Technical Report, pages 11-12
xxiv SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 4, with updates from DILG.
xxv SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 3
xxvi Translated as “People’s Money”

New Commitments for Open Governance

Every gain, including the gains mentioned above, paves the way for increasing transparency, accountability and citizen’s participation. The Philippine Government believes that open government will curtail the ability for corrupt officials and those interested in political patronage at public expense, to operate with impunity. Open government also plays a key role in empowering the poor and strengthening the constituency for reform. The Government will embark on the following beginning January 1, 2012:

Improve Transparency of Government Agencies

Escalate Fiscal Transparency.
By the end of June 2012, the government will improve the compliance rate of departments in the Executive branch in the disclosure their approved budgets, utilization of funds, awarded bids and annual procurement plans to 100 percentxxvii. Agency compliance will be measured by an index, to be developed and published online within 90 days, and to be co-managed with CSOs.
Promote Access to Government Information.
Throughout 2012, the Government will move towards adopting a policy for citizens to freely access government information in a timely, relevant and meaningful way, subject to certain limitations such as national security, foreign diplomacy and privacy concerns. It will work with CSOs and the private sector in broadening the scope of access to official information through all possible means; as well as in improving the compliance of government agencies to existing standards of information disclosure.

Deepen Citizen Participation

Organize a Philippine Open Governance Partnership.
During the preparatory phase of this Action Plan, the Government will organize a Philippine Open Governance Partnership that will be tapped in plotting open government reforms in the medium-term, in monitoring performance and in surfacing broader areas where interventions need to be escalated. Government will engage a broad spectrum of national and local CSOs, business groups, academe and other stakeholders; as well as reach out to the Legislature, the Judiciary, Constitutional Bodies and Local Governments for them to take part in open government endeavors.
Expand Participatory Budgeting.
By the end of June 2012, in time for the preparations for the 2013 National Budget, the Government will expand the coverage of participatory budget preparation to at least 12 departments and 6 government corporations, and enhance the process to address issues experienced during the pilot consultations for the 2012 Budget. Before end-2012, the Government, in consultation with CSOs, will craft a roadmap to expand and institutionalize participatory budgeting to the other phases of the budget cyclexxviii and to the national, regional and local levels.
Forge Partnerships for the Development of Local Government-Level Poverty Reduction and Empowerment Plans.
The government will push for stronger collaboration between national agencies, local government units (LGUs) and community organizations in localizing poverty through LGU-level poverty reduction and empowerment plans. During the preparatory phase of this Action Plan, 600 qualified LGUs and partner-CSOs will be identified; community facilitators will be recruited and trained; and manuals for the training the community organizers. From January to July 2012, community workshops will be conducted in drafting community poverty reduction plans that will be incorporated into the proposed National Budget for 2013.
Establish an Empowerment Fund.
To support the bottom-up approach in development planning and budgeting, the Government will establish a facility to support CSOs in organizing citizens and communities to engage government in the implementation and audit of poverty reduction programs. A mechanism will be developed to safeguard the independence of CSOs from the agencies they engage. Such facility will be established during the fourth quarter of 2011. Screening, selection and provision of funding to qualified CSOs will be undertaken throughout 2012.
Institutionalizing Social Audit for Public Infrastructure Projects.
The A partnership between the Audit commission, Executive departmentsxxix and CSOs will craft a roadmap for institutionalizing social audit for general public works and agriculture infrastructure projects by end-2011, for implementation throughout 2012.

Escalate Accountability to Ethical and Performance Standards

Harmonizing Performance Measurement Systems in Government.
To ensure a single approach in measuring government performance—at the institutional, financial or individual level—the government will design and begin cascading a harmonized performance measurement system from the disparate systems at present. A Task Force will be constituted before end-2011 to formulate such a consolidated and harmonized performance measurement system by March 2012. Implementation of this system will begin in April 2012, for review by December 2012.
Install Results-Oriented Budgeting in More Agencies.
The Organizational Performance Indicator Framework (OPIF) will be further mainstreamed into the budget and planning processes of all agencies and harmonized with existing performance measurement systems in government. By end-2012, 10 Departmentsxxx will have fully-developed OPIF systems, with clearly defined agency outputs and performance indicators that are linked to the Philippine Development Plan.
Meanwhile, the Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) will again be used, and in an expanded manner, in crafting the proposed National Budget for 2013. From January to June 2013, at least seven additional programs and projects would have been subjected to ZBB.
Increase Compliance with Citizen’s Charters.
By the end of 2012, Government will ensure that 100% of national government agencies have published a Citizen’s Charter. Agencies shall also strive to improve their Citizen’s Charters—as well as their processes for frontline and other services, and response mechanisms to complaints and reports—in consultation with CSOs.
Roll-out Internal Audit and Internal Control Manuals.
Before the end of 2011, the Government will issue a Philippine Government Internal Audit Manual (PGIAM). From January to December 2012, the PGIAM and the National Guidelines on Internal Control System (NGICS) will be rolled-out in nine critical departmentsxxxi. This is in line with the target of all agencies adopting the PGIAM and NGICS by 2016.
Embedding Accountability in Local Governance.
In line with the goal of making all lower-income municipalities and citiesxxxii pass the Seal of Good Housekeeping by 2016, the Interior and Local Government department will increase the compliance rate to existing standards from 50% to 70% before the end of 2012. Furthermore, new standards that link performance in social development areas to the awarding of Seal of Good Housekeeping and Performance Challenge Fund grants would have been developed.

Maximize Technology and Innovation

Establish a Single Portal for Government Information.
The proposed Single Portal for Government Information is envisioned to be a central government website where citizens can access government information as well as provide feedback on government performance. Throughout 2012, the Government, in consultation with stakeholders, will craft a roadmap and develop a Single Portal for Government Information which complies with basic open data standards.
Install a Government Integrated Financial Information Management System.
To ensure the efficiency of government financial management procedures, the Government will develop a complete Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) by 2016. By August 2012, the first track of GIFMIS, which will serve as the single data sharing platform of government’s oversight agenciesxxxiii, will be developed.
Pursue Electronic Bidding and Procurement.
In line with the medium-term goal of digitizing the bidding process, the Government will develop additional features of PhilGEPS by December 2012. These new features include a facility to enable the online submission of bid documents; a module for CSOs to monitor tenders online; an electronic fee payment system; an expanded supplier registry and a module for agency posting of their annual procurement plans. The Government will also develop and pilot a system of procurement cards, in lieu of the often-abused system of cash advances, by June 2012.
Establish a National Justice Information System.
In line with addressing the slow pace of justice that has compromised poor victims and poor suspects, the Government will develop a National Justice Information System (NJIS), an integrated criminal justice database system that will facilitate the efficient recording, monitoring, tracking and reporting of crimes, cases, offenders and victims. By December 2012, the Justice department will develop and implement an online registry of opinions, issuances and other legal documents that will easily be accessible to judicial agents. The first phase of NJIS, which will integrate the systems of law enforcement, prosecution and corrections agencies, is envisioned for completion by the end of 2014.xxxiv
Establish a Manpower Information System and Central Payroll System.
To better manage government manpower requirements and improve accountability in the disbursement of funds for personal services, the Government will enhance its Government Manpower Information System (GMIS) as a comprehensive database of government manpower by the end of 2014. By December 2012, a National Payroll System that is linked to GMIS will be developed and pilotedxxxv.
Develop a Registry of Farmers and Fisherfolk.
The Government envisions a full database-registry of farmers and fisherfolk that will more accurately identify and reach beneficiaries of government interventions for agricultural and fisheries development, and to reduce the past massive leakage of government funds for this purpose. In the first quarter of 2012, a pilot registry will be developed covering 20 provinces with the high poverty incidence and high vulnerability to natural calamities.
Electronic Transparency for Congressional Allocations and Lump Sum Funds.
By the end of 2012, the Government will expand the eTAILS so that 1) other often-politicized lump-sum fundsxxxvi are processed through it; and 2) where citizen reportage on the implementation of projects funded by Congressional Allocations is enabled.
Interactive Fiscal Transparency.
The Government will develop and launch a Budget ng Bayanxxxvii website, which will serve as an interactive platform for citizens to learn about and find information on the National Budget as well as to file citizen reports on its implementation. Such a website will be activated by March 2012 and it will be fully operational by December 2012.
During the period of October to December 2011, prior to the commencement of the implementation year, the Philippine Government shall continue looking into further improving this 2012 OGP Action Plan. More importantly, it shall broaden public consultations and cooperation with other branches of Government in ensuring the sustainability of open government reforms over the medium-term.
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Footnotes:

xxvii Of 22 Departments of the executive branch, 6 have posted their approved budgets on their websites (DBM, DoH, DILG, DND, DPWH, DoTC), 3 have posted their fund utilization reports (DBM, DILG, DSWD), 13 have posted their awarded bids (DBM, DepEd, DENR, DoF, DFA, DoH, DILG, DoLE, DND, DPWH, DSWD, DoTC, NEDA) and 10 have posted their annual procurement plans (DBM, DoH, DILG, DoLE, DND, DPWH, DSWD, DoTC, NEDA, PCOO).
xxviii In particular, in the budget legislation, execution and accountability phases.
xix In particular, the Budget, Public Works and Agriculture departments.
xxx The OPIF has already been cascaded in 10 Departments: DA, DAR, DENR, DSWD, DoT, DPWH, DBM, DoF, DoH, DepEd.
xxxi In particular, the Public Works, Education, Finance, Justice, Health, Social Welfare, Budget, Labor and Environment departments.
xxxii Lower-income municipalities are those belonging to the 4th-6th classes. There are a total of 619 municipalities under these classes. Lower-income cities are those belonging to the 4th to 5th classes. There are a total of 28 cities under these.
xxxiii Particularly, the Finance and Budget departments and the Commission on Audit.
xxxiv DoJ Inputs
xxxvIn accordance with Executive Order No. 31 series of 2011
xxxvi Modules for the School Building Fund and the Internal Revenue Allotment of Local Governments are slated for development.

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Obama lauds Phl reforms
By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) Updated September 22, 2011 12:00 AM  View comments
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US President Barack Obama shakes hands with President Aquino following the Open Government Partnership forum at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. AP
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NEW YORK (via PLDT) – US President Barack Obama congratulated President Aquino on Tuesday for the reforms he has set in motion in the Philippines, and expressed hope that they could talk longer next time around.

The two heads of state met at the launch of the Open Governance Partnership (OGP) here. They sat next to each other during the event, which was attended by representatives of 46 other nations. The new partnership aims to promote transparency and accountability in government service.

“When the session was over, he congratulated us for our achievements in our first year. He (Obama) said, ‘I understand there have been those that have been pushing you back,’ ” Aquino told Manila-based reporters.

He said Obama was apparently referring to officials of the previous administration who are under investigation for corruption and who are blocking the administration’s reform efforts.

“He gave a compliment on the achievements that we’ve brought the first year. I guess Honolulu would be a smaller group and we’ll have more time to talk there,” Aquino said, referring to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Hawaii in November.

Aquino said he invited Obama to visit Manila but the US president, pressed for time, made no commitment. Aquino said the matter was best left to the foreign affairs departments of the Philippines and the US.

“I understand he talked before the UN here and everybody wanted to have two minutes with him,” Aquino said.

To prove that his administration means business in its fight against corruption, President Aquino declared here at the OGP forum that he has formulated an action plan to be unveiled in January next year.

In his speech, Aquino said heads of state that included US President Barack Obama, Aquino said government institutions would eventually comply with international standards regarding transparency in transactions.

“We have created a roadmap called the 2012 Philippine Government Action Plan to ensure that our government institutions are at par with international transparency standards,” he said.

Obama and Aquino sat next to each other during the OGP forum.

The Philippines is one of eight countries that are members of OGP Steering Committee. The OGP forum is co-headed by Obama and Brazil President Dilma Rousseff.

The other members are: Indonesia, Mexico, United Kingdom, Norway and South Africa. Members of the steering committee were selected based on fiscal transparency, access to information, and disclosure of officials.

An advocate of good governance that underscores anti-corruption agenda for countries, the OGP is a new multilateral initiative to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

Aquino said the action plan is a product of consultations made by his officials with civil society organizations and business groups that promote open and good governance, and acknowledged that “this action plan is a work-in-progress.”

“The long-standing culture of corruption and concealment that had taken root will take time to change. But rest assured, before its implementation in January 2012, the plan will have gone through even deeper consultations,” he said.

From the time he started a so-called house cleaning in June 2010 since he assumed office, Aquino disclosed that his government intends to correct the mistakes of the past and prevent them from happening again in the future all in the name of accountability.

“We have taken a two-pronged approach, focusing on the curative and the preventive. As we vigorously pursue our campaign against those who abused power in the past, we are also strengthening institutions through Open Government,” Aquino explained.

He said that these efforts are indicators of how serious the Philippines is in transforming the system from one that operates through secrecy, impunity, and collusion, into a government that embodies transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement – a government that truly exists for its people.

“If our citizens could engage in this way, then I am certain that we will achieve our collective goals sooner rather than later. I believe that if any citizenry can be actively engaged by its government, then it can only have positive effects on the people,” said Aquino.

Aquino also told guests at another forum dubbed as “The Power of Open: A Global Discussion” that was held at the Google headquarters in New York, that allowing constituents to engage in a feedback mechanism among government programs would remove doubts about misfeasance and create an environment where trust is established.

“A continuing conversation between government and its citizens builds a positive, powerful connection between individual leaders and citizens, fostering the reintegration of government with society as a whole,” he pointed out.

He said a policy for transparency, like what he is doing in his administration, prevents temptation among those in power to engage in crimes.

Aquino said technology, particularly the Internet, could be an avenue to give the people updates on government’s affairs, and allow citizens to give feedback.

“This sense of partnership makes us better equipped to navigate the turbulent waters in our age of flux. We have seen the manner in which social media can expose corruption and other abuses, and arouse public opinion to mobilize and reclaim their government.”

Aquino enumerated several programs that his government undertook to keep the citizens informed, among them a website where people can report public officials’ misuse of funds, a Palace portal and another one that details government allocations.

He cited the case of National Hero Jose Rizal who warned of the consequences of government being “blind and deaf to the grievances of the people.”

“His (Rizal) exposing the injustices in Philippine society ignited the Philippine Revolution

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‘Let us not forget the mistakes of the past’
(The Philippine Star) Updated September 22, 2011 12:00 AM  View comments


NEW YORK (via PLDT) – Those who forget the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them.

President Aquino paraphrased the writer George Santayana here Tuesday, saying that martial law imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos 39 years ago should be instilled in the Filipino memory, the better to learn the lessons of history.

The President said the dark days of authoritarian rule should never be ignored much less forgotten, since that was the time that military officers committed human rights violations with impunity, sanctioned by the commander-in-chief.

Aquino’s father, former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., an opposition stalwart who was a vocal critic of the Marcos administration, was imprisoned on trumped-up charges and later lived in exile in the United States. He was assassinated when he returned home in 1983.

The President said the person who declared martial law had been allowed by the Constitution to do so and stayed well beyond his term of office.

“He was supposed to be a Bar topnotcher but he trampled human rights by sending civilians to be tried in military courts,” he said, referring to Marcos, whose son, Ferdinand II, is now a senator and Aquino’s former colleague in the Senate.

The President also hit the former strongman and the people around him during that time for his decisions that according to him resulted to the country’s external debt that reached $25 billion since 1974 and the futility of having to establish the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant whose loans were paid by Filipino taxpayers for several years, among others.

“There was a study that came out before martial law that we almost have no external debt. I believe I saw a record that we started in 1974, that is when they started talking about the $25 billion,” the President said in Filipino.

He, however, reiterated that there were suggestions that Asian nations should have a paternalistic system and a strong leader.

In Manila, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda defended the Aquino administration’s human rights record and emphasized that the compensation bill that would give monetary assistance to martial law victims is still being worked out.

The human rights compensation bill seeks to provide assistance to some 10,000 victims during the martial law years.

Lacierda said there was a discussion on the bill prior to the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council but the terms and provisions were so broad that those present were not able to determine who exactly should be considered a rights victim.

Different points of view

Meanwhile, militant groups commemorated the 39th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by holding a rally at the foot of Mendiola Bridge in Manila, the site of many demonstrations during the Marcos regime.

“Justice remains elusive for the thousands of victims of the Marcos dictatorship and the fascist regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Martial law’s anniversary reminds us not just of the atrocities committed in the past, but also of the difficult struggle for justice being waged by victims of the past and present,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr.

Bayan lamented that while the compensation of Marcos victims was mentioned during the President’s State of the Nation Address, there has lately been no pronouncement or update on the matter.

The group also said the Aquino government has been slow to release more than 350 political prisoners, most of them arrested on trumped-up charges during the Arroyo regime.

“The AFP continues to deny the existence of political prisoners in the Philippines. The government doesn’t even have a working definition of who these prisoners are. It’s as if the 350 prisoners do not exist at all,” Reyes said.

Akbayan party-list, on the other hand, filed a resolution yesterday urging the House of Representatives to officially declare the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos an “enemy of democracy.”

In filing House Resolution 1756, Representatives Walden Bello and Arlene Bag-ao called on Congress to condemn the atrocities committed by Marcos. It also called on Congress to “strongly oppose” the revival of any proposal that would portray him as a hero.

The lawmakers said the Marcos dictatorship “was perhaps one of the darkest parts in the country’s political history.”

They said the Marcos dictatorship, through the utilization of a brutal military establishment, was responsible for 3,257 murders, 35,000 torture cases and 70,000 incarcerations.

But Marcos loyalists disagreed.

Lawyer Oliver Lozano, a staunch supporter of the fallen dictator, justified the implementation of martial law, saying Proclamation 1081 brought peace and development and made the country among the leading economies in the Asian region.

“It was an act of self defense against mob rule. There was no dictatorship only constitutional authoritarian rule against the enemies of the state that were on the verge of taking over the government. Crime rate went down, progress and development began reaching the countryside,” Lozano told The STAR.

He said aside from the restoration of law and order, martial law also sped up implementation of infrastructure projects and instilled discipline among the citizenry.

Lozano, whose son and driver were killed by carjackers early this year, said he would support the declaration of a modified “martial law” provided it is within the bounds of the Constitution, to address the worsening crime situation.

 Martial law documents

In a related development, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin turned over yesterday to civilians previously confidential martial law documents in a simple ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Gazmin said the documents, enough to fill up a room, will be preserved to allow Filipinos to learn from the past.

“Your defense and military establishment fully commit to turn over all declassified martial law documents in our possession to our Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for preservation and for the sake of posterity,” he said.

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the CHR would coordinate with the National Archives and the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) to preserve and digitize the documents.

The two feet thick documents include news clippings about former Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, a key figure of the popular revolt that ousted Marcos and reports on former senator Ninoy Aquino.

Other declassified documents include various security assessments, political leaflets of Aquino, feasibility studies on lifting martial law, a briefing manuscript about detainees dated 1980, a compilation of media accounts of the assassination of Aquino in 1983, news clippings on student activists dated September 1969, and various presidential decrees.

The documents covered the period from 1972 to 1986. – Delon Porcalla, Rhodina Villanueva, Perseus Echeminada, Michelle Zoleta, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Aurea Calica

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