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Senate, House fail to break budget impasse

March 14, 2019

Senators and congressmen have failed to break the budget impasse despite a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte late Tuesday.

Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd

Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate continued to swap tirades on Wednesday over alleged budget realignments and manipulation.

House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro told the Senate to mind its own business, saying members of the House are only doing their job in assuring that itemized lump-sum funds would go directly to their respective districts and not to the congressmen themselves.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson countered that Speaker Gloria Arroyo violated the Constitution by signing a falsified document, referring to the enrolled budget bill.

“Ang position ng House, meron kayong bahay. Ayusin niyo ang bahay. Kami naman ay may bahay din. Aayusin namin ang bahay namin. Sa pag-ayos ng bahay namin, ‘wag niyo kaming pakialaman dahil di namin kayo pinakikialaman. Ganun lang kasimple (For the House, it’s like having a house that you are supposed to take care of. We have our own house and we will fix that. In fixing it, you should not meddle because we do not meddle with how you are fixing your own house. It’s that simple),” Castro told reporters at the House of Representatives.

Castro said Duterte told Congress leaders on Tuesday night that they should finish the budget.

“The President said, ‘You have to finish the budget in a manner which is most comfortable to you.’ That’s what the President said,” he said.

Those who attended the meeting in Malacañang were Castro, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), House appropriations chairman Rolando Andaya Jr., Senior

Deputy Majority Leader Rodante Marcoleta, San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora and Davao Oriental 1st District Rep. Corazon Nunez-Malanyaon.

Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senators Panfilo Lacson, Gregorio Honasan and Loren Legarda were also present.

Castro said Yolanda Doblon, chief of the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO), said itemizations done by the House and Senate were “not unconstitutional.”

The House had been fending off Lacson’s accusations that it tinkered with the ratified budget bill by realigning at least P72.3 billion worth of allocations to some projects of House members.

Lacson insisted that this was a violation of the 1987 Constitution, hindering Sotto from signing the bill and delaying its transmittal to Duterte.

Andaya said despite the denial of the Senate, both chambers already did their own itemization of lump-sum funds after the ratification of the 2019 budget bicameral conference committee report.

Lacson said Arroyo could be charged for signing the enrolled budget bill.

“Since GMA already signed the [House] version of the enrolled bill, she’s already prone to being charged for falsification because she’s already certified something that did not take place,” he said in a briefing also on Wednesday.

“The act of signing a falsified document is already consummated. So any taxpayer can now go to the Ombudsman or DoJ (Department of Justice) to file a criminal complaint against her for falsification,” he added.

Sotto refused to sign the budget bill amid reports that the House tinkered with the approved bicameral conference committee report on the 2019 budget.

Sotto said the President told lawmakers that he would not sign a document that was not signed by the Senate president.

“He (Duterte) said, ‘But I want you to know that I will not sign anything if the Senate president will not sign it. So, he asked, ‘How are we going to resolve this?’”

“What was obvious last night is that the suggestion didn’t sit well with the congressmen because they cannot be sure if all their realignments will be adopted,” Lacson said.

“It’s all about their ‘pork,’ not mindful if they will be derailing the flagship projects of the government,” he added.

End stalemate

Malacañang again appealed to both houses of Congress to break the stalemate and pass the 2019 national budget.

“There is a budget impasse due to some constitutional questions raised by both chambers. Only Congress can resolve and break this impasse,” Panelo said in a statement.

“We call on the senators and representatives to break the stalemate and deliver to the Filipino people an appropriations law that can aid this government better their lives and help our country move forward,” he added.

The passage of the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act has been delayed after the House admitted itemizing lump-sum allocations even after ratification of the bill.

The national government had been operating on a reenacted budget since the start of the year as a result of the failure to approve the proposed P3.757-trillion budget.

Panelo said Duterte’s office has not received the general appropriations bill, despite its ratification on February 8.

“The executive has performed its constitutional task to submit its proposed budget, we await Congress to comply with its constitutional mandate to pass the same,” Panelo said.

“As soon as the enrolled bill on the budget is submitted to the President, the latter will perform his constitutional duty to scrutinize it and if he finds it in conformity with the constitutional demands, he will sign it,” he added.

Panelo, nevertheless, assured the public that the government was ready to cushion the impact of a reenacted budget.

“The delivery of public services to our countrymen will be maintained,” the Palace official said.

WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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