Cover-up at Senate | Daily Tribune – Without Fear or Favor

Bordey, H. (2019, April 06). Cover-up at Senate. Daily Tribune – Without Fear or Favor. Retrieved April 11, 2019 from

Cover-up at Senate
By Hananeel Bordey – April 6, 2019 12:07 AM

House leaders accused the Senate and a body of the chamber in an attempt to conceal the P83.9 billion in realignments in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

As the word war between the two chambers of Congress raged yesterday over the stalled budget, House chiefs had belied the claims of the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) that the information about the Senate insertions was already disclosed to the public.

Last Thursday, LBRMO director general Yolanda Doblon issued a memorandum addressed to Senate President Vicente Sotto III to explain that the items realigned by senators during the ratification of the GAB were previously disclosed.

“I wish to inform the Senate President that the chair of the Committee on Finance (Sen. Loren Legarda) read during the approval of the Bicameral Conference Committee Report the explanatory notes which outlined the amendments to the General Appropriations Bill. The explanatory notes were submitted to the Bills and Index, thus, the amendment mentioned in his (Andaya) press statement was already made known to the public,” said Doblon.

Post-ratification alterations

However, Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. alleged the LBRMO chief failed to mention that the Senate had submitted the realigned items to the House Appropriations Committee from 11 February to 8 March or after the GAB approval by the Bicameral Conference Committee.

“What I cannot understand is her explanation that the senators’ realignments were already made known to the public. The figures I released over the past days with regard to the senators’ post-ratification adjustments were never disclosed to the public by the Senate,” Andaya said.

“If these were made known to the public, (the figure) should not have been used by media. Journalists do not report old news,” he added.

The House leader said while he understood the position of Doblon in not contradicting the statements made by the Senate head, Andaya advised her that “a good employee should also be open to tell his boss of his shortcomings.”

Moreover, he said it was the Senate that is keeping details of the 2019 GAB ambiguous and that they continually refused to “come out clean on the issue.”

Kept in dark

“I have repeatedly asked the senators to give us full details of their realignments in the 2019 national budget. They kept us in the dark in the bicameral meetings, informal meetings and even in the meeting with the President,” he added.

Andaya said he will release the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage and screenshots of LBRMO visits to the House appropriations committee at the Batasang Pambansa complex from 11 February to 8 March.

Last 4 April, Andaya claimed the senators realigned items after the bicameral ratification of the 2019 GAB.

“In truth, the Senate made similar adjustments after ratification of the bicam report and increased by P83.9 billion the allocation for their pet programs and projects under various departments and agencies,” he said last Thursday.

Doblon said the LBRMO staff have been to the House Appropriations Committee “to prepare for the printing of the enrolled bill.”

Doblon supplemented her memorandum with a copy of the joint explanatory notes of the Bicameral Conference Report, which supported the Senate’s claim that the realignments were submitted and approved last 8 February.

Lips sealed

Sen. Loren Legarda remained mum amid the challenge from the House of Representatives for the members of the chamber to make public their respective amendments in the 2019 proposed national budget.

Legarda, who led the Senate contingent in crafting the final version of the P3.757 trillion proposed national budget, has not issued any statement to air the side of the Senate, which is being accused of sabotaging the 2019 budget.

As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Legarda was in the center of the budget deliberations with Andaya, her House counterpart.

Andaya has been very vocal about the billions of insertions made by senators. On the other hand, Legarda, except for her initial press statement after the budget measure was ratified last 8 February, has remained mum.

Legarda was among the senators identified by a colleague to have a P2.8 billion amendment inserted in the national budget and allotted in particular to the province of Antique where she is now gunning for the lone congressional district.

However, a slip of the tongue from Legarda’s local ally, Gov. Rhodora Cadiao, exposed that she has P5 billion in allocations for Antique.

Legarda’s and Cadiao’s camp denied the “slip of the tongue” despite actual recordings of Cadiao’s pronouncements during a political rally.

Unilateral move

Recently, Andaya urged Sotto and other senators to look closely into the budget books and for them to consult with their technical staff.

“The senators cannot hide the fact that they unilaterally reduced by more than P75 billion the 2019 budget allocated to the President’s major infrastructure projects and vital social programs. These cuts would also affect the benefits due to government workers, including pension and retirement benefits of retired uniformed personnel,” Andaya said.

The House leadership has also accused the Senate of “sabotaging” the 2019 national budget as the budget cuts they made affected key projects of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Cited as having been affected by the Senate realignments were P5 billion for the Department of Transportation’s (DoTr) right-of-way (RoW); P11.03 billion for Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) RoW and P2.5 billion for DPWH’s 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,” he said.

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 a 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 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.

With Mario J. Mallari

Published in Headlines | Daily Tribune – Without Fear or Favor

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