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Ben Diokno is a reformist

"He can blend ideal policy reforms with the hustle-bustle of politics and deal-making and still come out on top in the end."

 

The new governor of the Bangko Sentral Benjamim E.  Diokno, 70, was a reformist Budget secretary.  He has solid educational credentials, here and abroad, giving him the gravitas of a technocrat and a conscientious public servant even as he pursued expansionary spending policies under the Corazon Aquino and Rodrigo Duterte administrations.

A pragmatist, he can blend ideal policy reforms with the hustle-bustle of politics and deal-making and still come out on top in the end.

He was President Duterte’s  secretary of the Department of Budget and Management from July 2016 to March 5, 2019.

He was also the Budget secretary under President Joseph Estrada, from July 1998 to January 2001.   When Estrada conducted an all-out war against Muslim separatists and terrorists in Mindanao, Diokno readily provided the funds for the military operations.  It paid off.  Estrada captured 45 rebels camps, including their headquarters.

Diokno also served as Undersecretary for Budget Operations at the Department of Budget and Management, from 1986 to 1991, during the administration of President Corazon Aquino.

Aquino exceeded the budget deficit to GDP ceiling (deficit hit more than 5 percent of GDP) but greater expenditures were needed to revive a slumping economy following the worst political and economic crisis ever in the country.

Under Duterte, Diokno went all out to finance the President’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure buildup and fulfill the former Davao mayor’s campaign promise to double the income of soldiers, policemen, and teachers.  Today, soldiers, policemen and teachers are the highest paid civil servants in their respective pay scales.

During the Aquino presidency, Diokno provided technical assistance to several major reforms such as the design of the 1986 Tax Reform Program, which simplified income tax and introduced the value-added tax, and the 1991 Local Government Code of the Philippines.

During the Estrada administration, Diokno initiated and instituted several reforms that would enhance transparency and improve the efficiency of the delivery of government services.

The first major reform instituted was the “what you see is what you get” or WYSWYG policy that is a simplified system of fund release for the General Appropriations Act. This allowed agency heads to immediately plan and contract out projects by just looking at the GAA, which is available in print and at the DBM website, without waiting for the issuance of an allotment authority. 

Diokno initiated the reform of the government procurement system through the adoption of rapidly improving information and communications technology. He secured technical assistance from the Canadian International Development Agency to help the GPS develop an electronic procurement system along the lines of the Canadian model.

By August 1999, the DBM had two documents necessary to initiate reforms in public procurement.

In early 2000, Diokno and USAID successfully concluded a substantial technical assistance program for the DBM’s budget reform programs, which now included procurement reform.

Other budget reforms instituted by Diokno concerned procedures for payment of accounts payable and terminal leave/ retirement gratuity benefits.

The release of cash allocation were programmed and uploaded to the department’s website while payments were made direct to the bank accounts of specific contractor.

Diokno finished his bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the University of the Philippines (1968), and earned his master’s in Public Administration (1970) and Economics (1974), also from UP.

He also holds a Master of Arts in Political Economy (1976) from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA and a Ph.D. in Economics (1981) from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, USA.

He is professor emeritus at UP Diliman.

Diokno served as Fiscal Adviser to the Philippine Senate. He also served as chairman and CEO of the Philippine National Oil Co. and Chairman of the Local Water Utilities Administration. He was also chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (City University of Manila).

In his third tour of duty as Budget secretary, he pursued an expansionary fiscal policy to finance investments in human capital development and public infrastructure.

In addition, he sought passage of a Budget Reform Bill to ensure the compliance of future budgets with the pertinent laws of the land. He also aims to reorganize and professionalize the bureaucracy with a Government Rightsizing Act.

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Topics: Tony Lopez , Benjamim E. Diokno , reformist Budget secretary , Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas , BSP
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