The House of Representatives turned the tables on the Senate yesterday, stressing the chamber already did its part on the proposed national budget with Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signing the measure while Senate President Vicente Sotto III refused to do so.
House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro, in an interview, refuted claims that the fate of the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget is left in the hands of the House.
In fact, Castro stressed the House already did its job in crafting the national budget and it’s time for the Senate to do its mandate.
“The ball is not in our hands, it’s with the Senate. Speaker Arroyo has already signed it, who did not sign it?” Castro asked.
Castro instead said some senators should explain the P75 billion realignments they made that will greatly affect the flagship programs of the Duterte administration, including the “Build, Build, Build” scheme, transport modernization program and rehabilitation of drug victims.
Of the P75 billion realignments, P2.5 billion was slashed from the National Greening Project, P3 billion from Technical Education and Skills Development Authority scholarship, P11 billion from the Department of Public Works and Highways Right of Way projects for the President’s “Build, Build, Build” program and P2.5 billion funding for foreign assisted projects, Castro said.
“We already did our part in crafting the national budget, it’s their turn to do theirs,” he added.
Castro, at the same time, clarified the President’s stand not to sign the budget measure transmitted by the House to the Senate not because he is siding with the Senate as some senators claimed.
“What is there to sign when there is no enrolled bill? It is not considered as enrolled bill without the signature of the Senate President,” Castro explained.
Part of legis process
The Senate wanted the House of Representatives to recall the budget measure awaiting Sotto’s signature and replace it with the one ratified by the Bicameral Conference Committee.
The senators alleged the House made changes to the ratified versions of the measure which is against both the Revised Penal Code and the Constitution.
Sotto stood firm that he will not sign the budget measure submitted and signed by Speaker Arroyo.
Castro, however, countered that itemization of the lump sum entries in the proposed national budget was still part of the legislation process in crafting the budget measure.
“That is within the legislation process, it’s part of the process. What we have done in the budget was no different from the previous years, it was done in the past so many times,” according to Castro.
He reiterated it’s a challenge to the Senate to itemize their insertions in the national budget.
Sotto and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, however, maintained that what some House leaders did was not itemization but realignments.
Castro explained the budget process has two stages which are legislation and execution, adding changes can be made as long as President Duterte has yet to sign the budget and it will be only considered illegal if the realignments were made after it was signed into law.
The solon said Arroyo asked San Juan Rep. Ronnie Zamora to talk to Lacson to settle the differences of both chambers.
Castro said the two chambers should lay down options to break the deadlock.
“House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Finance Committee, they should be the principal that should hammer the options available because they are the ones knowledgeable of the nomenclature of what they are doing,” Castro told the Daily Tribune.
This was in support of the Appropriations Committee chairman Rolando Andaya Jr. who welcomed the suggestion of Sotto to conduct a special session to break the impasse.
However, Andaya said the House “will not agree to the Senate’s stand that we return to the old mode of lumpsum budgeting and the House remains steadfast in its mission of itemizing all lumpsum funds in the 2019 General Appropriations Act.”
With Hananeel Bordey