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IN A FIELD of restored and restricted democracies, and repressive regimes, the Philippines’ so-so score in the 2010 Open Budget Survey is cause enough to celebrate. One of Southeast Asia’s economic laggards, the Philippines did one better: it tops 10 other countries in the region in terms of budget transparency. This is even as the Philippines scored a measly 55 out of a possible 100.

TRANSPARENCY in government is a cornerstone policy that President Benigno C. Aquino III has promised to uphold. It has been put in doubt because of his perceived reluctance to divulge the report of the commission that investigated the hostage-taking tragedy last August 23 but he could still make good on his pledge by widening public access to government documents, starting with those on the budget.

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