High drama in first day of House budget debates

Published September 17, 2018, 4:45 PM

by Patrick Garcia


By Ellson Quismorio

An alleged plot to remove Davao City 1st district Rep. Karlo Nograles as chairman of the House appropriations committee has failed, for now.

2017 GAA PLENARY/26SEP2016 At the Plenary Hall of the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Appropriations Committee Chairman Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles gives his sponsorship speech at the first Plenary Session for the 2017 General Appropriations Act. MB PHOTO/FEDERICO CRUZ
Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles

This developed during the first day of the House budget debates Monday, the morning of which was uneventful as congressmen were nowhere to be found at the plenary.

Compared to normal session days, solons convene at the plenary hall earlier during the budget debates to get as much work done as possible. But there was tension elsewhere.

According to sources, Nograles and House Majority Leader, Camarines Sur 1st district Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. engaged in a shouting match during an all-member caucus over how they would move forward with the approval of the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.

The caucus began at 9 a.m., or an hour before the Monday session started.

Later, Nograles acknowledged an ensuing move to get rid of his chairmanship, telling reporters: “It has to go through plenary vote so until then, it’s not true [that I have been removed].”

In the interim, House Minority Leader, Quezon 3rd district Rep. Danilo Suarez told selected journalists that indeed, Nograles was out as Appropriations chairman. Although he is the recognized Minority bloc leader, Suarez is known to have close ties with House Speaker and former president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Then, at past 1 p.m., Suarez personally went to the House media center to say that there would be no upheaval and that “status quo” would be retained. He declined to sit down for an interview.

The caucus persisted until 2 p.m., or during the resumption of the day’s session. However, the deliberation on the national budget was suspended seconds later.

In a subsequent statement, Nograles chided Suarez for speaking about his supposed removal. “The Minority leader cannot speak for the Majority coalition, and has in fact already withdrawn his previous statement,” he said.

Nograles also expressed no desire to stick to his chairmanship in case the House leadership wants him out.

“If anybody wants to remove me as chair of the committee on appropriations, then they can have the position, but they cannot be allowed to make the President break his promise to our people, and they cannot be allowed to deprive millions of Filipinos in so many provinces nationwide of the programs and projects that our kababayans and my fellow probinsyanos need, by tinkering with the budget. This budget is for the needs of our people,” he said.

The appropriations panel was the one that oversaw the per agency hearings on the proposed national budget.

“Pwede nila ako tanggalin sa pwesto ko, pero wag lang nila tanggalan ng budget na nakalaan para sa mga Pilipino (They can remove me from my position, but they shouldn’t remove the budget that’s meant for the Filipinos),” Nograles said.

Nograles said that as Chair of the committee, he would continue to work with his colleagues and the Executive to come up with a General Appropriations Act (GAA) that would address the needs of the country.

He further said that his track record as Appropriations head speaks for itself.

“Sinikap ko na mapondohan ang mga batas na makakagaan sa buhay ng ating mga kababayan, tulad ng Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act at ang Free Irrigation Service Act,” said the third-term legislator.

(I worked hard to fund laws that would ease the burden on our countrymen, like the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act and Free Irrigation Service Act.)

“I worked hard with my colleagues in Congress and the Executive to hammer out a budget that addresses the needs of our people. I will continue to fight for a budget that will ensure that the commitments of the President to our people are fulfilled,” Nograles added.