September 14, 2012
SEN. GUINGONA: VOLUNTEERISM VITAL
Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III has highlighted the importance of volunteerism in the country for it is an essential element in the social and economic development of the people and their communities.
Speaking before the Rotary Club of San Juan in Club Filipino last Thursday night, Sen. Guingona said that unfortunately, many government bureaucrats undervalue the potential of volunteerism.
"When they think of national development, they still think in terms of economic development and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) alone. Because they are not counted as economic or commercial transactions, the contributions of volunteers and opportunities for volunteer participation are seldom factored into national development strategies. This must change," he said.
He stressed that it is about time that the government formally recognized volunteerism as a powerful and universal renewable resource, a vital component of the social capital of the country.
"People are the real wealth of the nation. If people are at the center of development activities and enabled to be active participants of change, equitable and broadbased progress could be realized," he emphasized.
In support of strengthened volunteerism in the country, Sen. Guingona convened the Open Budget Partnership (OBP) two years ago and formalized the partnership of government and volunteers in Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the academe, and general public in determining the national budget.
To ensure that the preparation, allocation, and use of the people's money benefit the poor, the OBP involves citizen volunteers from the very beginning of the budget process up to where they see the use of public funds in the concrete.
"One of the greatest lies spread by corrupt public officials is that government budgets are far too complicated to be understood by ordinary citizens and should therefore be left to specialists alone. Our initiative rips this lie to pieces," he added.
This year, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has introduced bottom-up budgeting which will take effect in the 2013 budget process. It will engage 609 of the country's poorest towns to develop Local Poverty Reduction Action Plans. It requires CSOs from communities to endorse a list of priority projects before it can be considered in the national budget. To institutionalize participatory democracy and prevent backsliding into the old ways of apathy and indifference, Sen. Guingona has drafted and sponsored legislation called "People's Participation in the National Budget Process Act." "Talagang malayo na ang narating ng voluntarism since 1907 when Atty. Paul Harris and his team of founders of Rotary International volunteered to build public toilets to improve sanitation in Chicago. It is precisely these small acts of volunteerism - like building toilets and squeezing two drops of anti-polio vaccine on a baby's mouth - that reverberate worldwide and inspire earth-shaking, leap-frogging accomplishments that move entire nations and humanity to a better life," he added. Sen. Guingona added that Filipino volunteers are now wielding new technologies that allow them to raise awareness, mobilize people, and monitor government performance through electronic voice and image transmissions that form the core of citizen journalism unheard of in the past.
"Hindi iba sa Pilipino ang bagong mukha ng boluntarismo sa mundo sapagkat pinalaki tayong lahat sa diwa ng bayanihan. Our 1986 People Power Revolution has inspired the Arab world to enforce recent democratic change in their respective countries through volunteer action," he said.
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