GMA: Just lawful budget

Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday insisted Congress will not agree to the passage of an “unconstitutional version” of the national budget even as she debunked Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s claim the House has recalled its version of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

Belying Lacson’s statement, the former President said, “No, we have not withdrawn our version.”

“We’re in discussions about what is the proposed new version,” Arroyo revealed.

But the House, she said, will be discussing options on the compromise that both Houses will agree on if only to break the impasse.

“I’m going to meet today with the House members and with Congressman Ronnie Zamora,” Arroyo said, referring to her emissary to the Senate.

Macapagal-Arroyo is still hopeful that Congress will pass the budget as President Rodrigo Duterte has already called a meeting to urge the approval of the GAB

Arroyo assigned Zamora to discuss with Lacson ways to settle the budget deadlock.

Lacson had claimed the House made illegal realignments in the GAB soon after its ratification.

Lacson reiterated that Zamora called to inform him that the House is recalling its budget version.

Arroyo emphasized that the House is maintaining its stand against passing a budget containing lump sum allocations.

She said lump sum budgeting is unconstitutional.

“We will insist on no lump sum because that’s what is unconstitutional. That’s what we will insist, no lump sum. Now, as to the details, that’s the one that we’ll see,” Arroyo stressed.

The Supreme Court in 2013 has ruled that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), otherwise known as “pork barrel fund,” is illegal and unconstitutional.

It prohibited the lawmakers from putting their hands in the implementation of the budget after the President has signed it into law.

PDAF is a lump-sum discretionary fund made available for the lawmakers in both chambers.

“Any post-enactment-measure allowing legislator participation beyond oversight is bereft of any constitutional basis and, hence, tantamount to impermissible interference and/or assumption of executive functions. Any post-enactment congressional measure should be limited to scrutiny and investigation,” the Highest Tribunal ruled.

Moreover, Arroyo is still hopeful that Congress will pass the budget as President Rodrigo Duterte has already called a meeting to urge the approval of the GAB.

“If we don’t come to an agreement and then Tito Sotto does not sign the bill, then there’s no bill to send to the President. So, I do not know if we will but I would wish we would,” she said.

But the Senate is not inclined to meet again with leaders of the House for the passage of the 2019 national budget with some Senators citing the need for congressmen to address their “internal impasse.”

The national budget is pegged at P3.757 trillion.

Sotto said his colleagues are confused about the House’s real stand.

“Maybe not anymore,” replied Sotto when asked if they will agree to meet with their counterparts in the House, adding “we will just wait for their final decision.”

Sotto reiterated the Senate stand that he will not sign the measure submitted by the House since it was not the version ratified during the bicameral conference committee last 8 February.

“We (senators) already have a final decision and that is to stand by what we ratified,” Sotto stressed.

He said if the House does not recall the transmitted measure, there would be reenacted budget until August.

“If they do not withdraw and revert to the ratified version, then it’s (reenacted budget) going to be in August for sure,” Sotto said.

Lacson said the House needs to address what he called as its “internal impasse” to move forward in the budget discussion.

The senator revealed an alleged manipulation by some House leaders of the proposed national budget even after ratification.

He cited “pork barrel” as reason for the impasse.

“Just when the stalemate between the Senate and the House is about to end, there is now a budget impasse within the House. Blame it on the dizzying pork,” Lacson said.

“They should first break the budget impasse within their own house. Meanwhile, the Senate will just wait when they will recall,” he added.

with Mario J. Mallari