Senate defers hearings on proposed 2019 budget

Published August 13, 2018, 6:23 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate has decided to defer hearings on the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 amid the dispute between the House of Representatives and the Executive Branch over the cash-based budgeting system.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III gestures after elected as a newly Senate President at Senate Building in Pasay city, May 21,2018.(Czar Dancel)
Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri made the announcement following the meeting of the 17 majority senators Monday afternoon, despite the suspension of work in the Upper Chamber due to inclement weather.

Sotto said the majority senators agreed to hold off deliberations on the proposed 2019 budget until the Lower House and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) settle their issue on the planned cash-based system for next year.

“The suggestion of the Majority Leader and as agreed by everyone is that we follow the Constitution. The appropriations measure should come from the House. So, we let them decide and we will tackle it when it reaches us. After long debates the whole afternoon that was the consensus reached,” Sotto said in an interview.

“We’ll adhere to the plan of the House to postpone first hearings of the budget because you know it’s a constitutional responsibility when it comes to the budget of the Republic of the Philippines, it emanates from the House of Representatives,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri said Senate finance committee chairwoman Sen. Loren Legarda will meet House appropriations committee chair Rep. Karlo Nograles and the DBM Tuesday regarding the matter.

The Senate, he said, will resume hearings once the impasse is settled.

“We’ll have to wait for the announcement of the committee on finance chair after the meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon,” Zubiri said.

While the two Senate leaders said many of the majority members feel that the DBM’s proposed cash-based budgeting system will “instill discipline” to agencies in spending their budget, they respect the Lower Chamber’s stand since tax and appropriations measures should come from the congressmen.

“We’ll respect the decision of the House as the stand of the Senate and wait for the negotiations between the House of Representatives and the DBM,” Zubiri said.

This means the budget hearing of the Senate finance committee scheduled for Tuesday, August 14, has been cancelled. It includes those of the proposed 2019 budgets of the Office of the President; Presidential Management Staff; the Department of Public Works and Highways and its attached agencies; the Motor Vehicle User Charge; as well as the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Pending Legarda’s meeting with Nograles and the DBM, deliberations on the proposed budgets of the Office of the Vice President, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and the National Security Council — which are scheduled on Wednesday — remain in limbo.

Legarda, on Monday, had postponed her committee’s hearing on the proposed 2019 budget of the Judiciary Branch due to her sore throat.

The House of Representatives on Saturday decided to suspend hearings on the proposed P3.757-trillion General Appropriations Act for 2019 after its members opposed the cash-based budgeting system pushed by the Palace and the DBM.

Despite this, Nograles assured that the 2019 budget will be passed on time. House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya also dismissed the possible scenario of a reenacted 2019 budget.