Senate ripped for sabotage | Daily Tribune – Without Fear or Favor

Reference:
Bordey, M. (2019, April 02). Senate ripped for sabotage. Daily Tribune – Without Fear or Favor. Retrieved April 04, 2019 from https://tribune.net.ph/index.php/2019/04/02/senate-ripped-for-sabotage/

Senate ripped for sabotage
By Hananeel Bordey – April 2, 2019 12:07 AM

The slicing of the 2019 budget was not fully discussed in the Bicameral Conference Committee as senators unilaterally decided on the budget cuts and realigned them to other items based on request of individual proponents, House leaders said yesterday, as their rift with the Senate over the still unapproved budget ignited anew.

“It is the Senate that may find itself liable to accusations of sabotage when it decided, unilaterally, to cut down the allocation for the President’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program and other priority projects,” according to House chiefs.

“Up to now, the Senate has yet to make public a detailed report on the proponents who recommended the individual realignments,” the House maintained.

Mr. Duterte, however, has done his homework on the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019 to make sure it is compliant with the 1987 Constitution, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

“He is going to evaluate and scrutinize the national budget. He’s a lawyer. He will know whether a document or certain provisions in a document are illegal or not,” he added.

Panelo explained the President would weigh the claims of both the Senate and the House about insertions and budget realignments in the appropriations bill.

“They (the Senate and the House of Representatives) are accusing each other with certain irregularities or acts in conflict with the Constitution. They should resolve it,” he expressed.

Solomonic solution

“The President, I’m sure will factor in all the statements made by both chambers in going over the budget and then decide for himself,” the Palace official said.

“Well, again, that is an internal problem between them. With respect to the two houses, they should resolve that,” he added. “They’re raising constitutional issues among themselves and that will be factored in the consideration of the President signing or vetoing certain provisions of the budget.”

Panelo, nevertheless, guaranteed Mr. Duterte will only sign a “legal” 2019 budget while expressing hope the proposed 2019 budget would be signed into law anytime this week.

Slashes from Senate

“The House of Representatives never made a move to reduce the 2019 budget for infrastructure projects as appropriated in the National Expenditure Program (NEP),” House Appropriations Committee chairman Rolando Andaya Jr. said.

Andaya emphasized that the House has suggested amendments in the national budget, which increases allocations for projects without touching the total amount that was pegged in the NEP.

The House expressed confidence that the Office of the President will consider its amendments for review and look for ways to restore these through the presidential veto.

They cited anew several provisions in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill, which the senators have cut down.

Among these were: P5 billion for Department of Transportation’s (DoTr) Right-of-Way (RoW) projects, P11.03 billion for Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) RoW and P2.5 billion for DPWH foreign-assisted projects.

“Depriving the government with funds for right-of-way and other infrastructure projects will surely hamper the implementation of the President’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program.
Construction on priority projects, including mass transit and railway systems, will be mostly affected,” the House leaders pointed out.

Also cited were P3 billion for rebel returnees and out-of-school youth’s scholarship under the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority; P2.254 billion for National Greening Program, which they claim to have resulted to 50 percent budget cut for all PENRO except in Antique; P7.5 billion budget for the Southeast Asian Games from Department of Foreign Affairs, but P5 billion of which was transferred to the Philippine Sports Commission with that the remaining P2.5 billion nowhere to be found; P13.4 billion miscellaneous personnel benefit fund and the P39 billion in pension and gratuity fund.

Desperate bid

Senate President Vicente Sotto III dismissed the House allegations and called it a desperate attempt to stop Mr. Duterte from vetoing their insertions.

Sotto maintained Mr. Duterte is well-informed about the budget issue and the stand of the Senate.

The Senate President theorized that Andaya’s latest move was meant to prevent the President from exercising his veto power.

“It’s a last-ditch effort to obfuscate the issue and try to prevent the President’s veto of their illegal realignments,” he said.

“Even their colleagues know. No excuses are necessary because the President knows everything,” he added.

Sotto was apparently referring to at least 62 members of the House who supposedly informed some senators about the slashing of the budget allocated to their respective congressional districts after the ratification of the measure.

With reservations

The Senate President signed the “manipulated” budget with strong reservations over the P75 billion alleged realignments made by some members of the House.

In his letter to the President, Sotto attached a list of the items allegedly realigned by some House leaders and urged the Chief Executive to exercise his veto power.

The budget version of the House was already transmitted to the Executive department after Sotto signed it last week.

Prior to Sotto’s signing, the Senate wanted the original ratified version to be passed that resulted in more than a month of impasse.

Senators have expressed optimism that the President will heed their call to veto the P75 billion.

With Mario J. Mallari

Published in Headlines | Daily Tribune – Without Fear or Favor

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