Vetoed rider not priority–Duterte

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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over a meeting with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) at the Malacañan Palace on April 15, 2019. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he vetoed several items amounting to P95.3 billion from the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA), because he will not condone corruption in any form.

The Chief Executive said the people’s hard-earned money must be used to improve the condition of the country and their overall welfare.

“Consistent with the foregoing aspirations and in the faithful exercise of my office and due fidelity to my oath, I will not tolerate attempts to circumvent the Constitution or any other action that will prejudice the Filipino people whom I serve,” read part of the Chief Executive’s veto message to Congress, released by Malacañang yesterday.

According to Mr. Duterte, who enacted the enrolled spending bill last Monday, any provision introduced in the national budget which does not relate to a particular appropriation or those which seek to amend the Constitution and existing laws “have no place in the GAA.”

These are considered “rider” provisions and must be subjected to direct veto, the Palace said.

Apart from the direct veto on the P95.3-billion appropriation under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) but were not within its programmed priorities, the President likewise junked several other provisions included in this year’s expenditure.

Among them are the use of income under the Department of Labor and Employment-National Labor Relations Commission; special provisions on the implementation of projects by the Departments of Agriculture, DPWH and Trade and Industry, and the limits to the power of the President, as chief architect of foreign policy, to enter into loan agreements consistent with Section 20, Article VII of the Constitution.

Mr. Duterte also imposed conditional implementation on provisions to ensure conformity with existing laws, policies and rules and regulations.

They are the following: Allowance and benefits of teachers and creation of teaching positions; construction of evacuation centers; funding for foreign-assisted projects; revolving fund; lump sum appropriations for capital outlays; financial assistance to local government units; funding requirements of the Philippine foreign service; provision of salaries under the assistance to indigent patients; double programming of funding source; allocation of maintenance and other operating expenses to lower courts; government internship program, and tertiary education subsidy.

“Our FY 2019 budget is a reflection of our vision for the Philippines and for the Filipino people. Their dreams are mine – and yours as well. With this, I call on everyone to continue working together and make sure that every peso of this budget is well spent,” the President said.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, defended the President’s vetoing of several items —including the P75 billion “insertions” applied by congressmen covering public works projects — saying they violate the Constitution.

“Remember the decision of the Supreme Court. The decision of the Supreme Court was that if they are unprogrammed, then it violates the Constitution,” Panelo said. “Those vetoed provisions are in violation of the Constitution or it is against certain statutes. That was also the statement made by the President.”

We fully support the President in his desire to focus national expenditure on projects and activities that redound to the benefit of all Filipinos and stimulate the growth of the economy providing job and income opportunity for the least advantaged.

Panelo was referring to the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam, the renamed pork barrel fund that besmirched the administration of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

“The message is always ‘you follow the Constitution.’ Any deviation from the Constitution will not be approved by the President or will not be tolerated,” Panelo said, adding that Duterte also subjected certain provisions to conditional implementation to ensure they are in conformity with existing laws, rules and regulations.

In a separate statement, Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the President vetoed the line items in the budget because they are not included in his administration’s programmed priorities.

Dominguez, however, said that they fully support the President’s move.

“We fully support the President in his desire to focus national expenditure on projects and activities that redound to the benefit of all Filipinos and stimulate the growth of the economy providing job and income opportunity for the least advantaged,” he said.

Remember the decision of the Supreme Court. The decision of the High Court was that if they are unprogrammed, then it violates the Constitution.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia earlier estimated that the country’s gross domestic product could slow to 6.1 to 6.3 percent if a reenacted budget was used until April.

Senators ‘happy’

Senators also backed President Duterte as he crossed party-lines in hailing his decision to veto the “pork barrel” in the P3.757-trillion 2019 GAA.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III called the President’s act as a “victory of the Filipino people.”

“It’s the people’s victory. The illegal realignments cannot escape the President’s scrutiny,” said Sotto, who also credited Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon for his proposal for the Senate President to sign the budget measure with expressed “strong reservations” on the P75 billion alleged illegal realignments made by some members of the House of Representatives.

“Congrats to the people. Someone should post what Frank said. He is indeed a better thinker,” the Senate President added.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, said that Duterte’s vetoing of the alleged “pork barrel” in the budget earned him more respect, noting that by vetoing items in the budget, the Chief Executive saved huge taxpayers’ money.

“If there is one act of PRRD that is worthy of admiration, this veto message is on top of my list,” said Lacson. “With his guts, glory comes to the Filipino taxpayers. Simple maths tells us this: P95.3B x 20 percent (pork commission) equals P19.06B savings from our hard-earned tax money.”

Lacson also stressed that with the President’s move, the 2019 national budget is now “pork-free.”

Reelectionist Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito also lauded Duterte’s move as another clear indication that the President has “unflinching dedication to protect the people’s money.”

“I welcome his decision to sign the budget and more importantly veto unconstitutional realignments. This is a victory not for the Senate but for fiscal responsibility and public welfare,” Ejercito said.

House respects veto

The House of Representatives, meantime, expressed its respect to the President’s decision, although House Appropriations Committee chairman Rolando Andaya Jr. urged the Palace to release the veto message immediately to explain the budget circumstances.

“There are many kinds of veto. It has many variants. There is the direct veto and the conditional veto. The President can also place several provisions under conditional implementation and attach requisites before an appropriation can be released so that such act complies with the laws,” Andaya said.

With Hananeel Bordey, Elmer N. Manuel and Mario J. Mallari

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