By Ben Rosario
A battle of wits and will anticipated between the House of Representatives and Senate contingent to the bicameral conference panel on the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act was the reason behind the change in leadership in the Lower House.
As the House elected Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro the new majority leader, the veteran Capiz lawmaker nominated his predecessor, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. to assume the chairmanship of the House Committee on Appropriations.
The move put Andaya in the forefront of the bicameral panel deliberations on the budget measure as head of the House contingent.
“We are now confronted with two choices: Rubber-stamping the passage of a greatly-flawed budget on time, or using more time to craft a better one purged of its in-born defects,” stated Andaya.
The bicameral committee proceedings started yesterday with leaders of both legislative contingents expecting tense deliberations due to various budget controversies arising from the alleged insertion of pork barrel funds by the Department of Budget Management.
“The House leadership under Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has accepted my offer to relinquish my post and lead the contingent tasked to complete one major unfinished business left in our legislative calendar: the passage of the 2019 national budget,” declared Andaya.
Andaya’s statement doused speculations that Malacanang was behind his removal as majority leader.
The Bicolano lawmaker has been engaged in a long-running feud with Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, whose relief as budget chief was sought by the Lower House in a resolution adopted last December.
“I have been given orders: from the GHQ to the frontlines. I volunteered for this mission, knowing full well that the place of honor is in the frontlines,” said Andaya.
According to Andaya, the House panel will not choose “the path of surrender and subservience” in the budget deliberation, pointing out that “such legislative haste would have surely led to budgetary waste.”
“We cannot pass a budget marinated in flood control funds, or drowning in DBM-inserted infrastructure projects the DPWH remains clueless about,” the new House appropriations chief stated.
He added: “We cannot be casual or cavalier about the most important bill the Constitution assigns us to pass annually. “
As his first act as majority leader, Castro, a former San Beda College law professor, moved for the relief of Leyte Rep. Jose Carlos Cari as member of the House of Representative Electoral Tribunal.
Elected to replace Cari was Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Wilter Palma.
Castro also moved to elect Rep. Randolph Ting (NUP, Cagayan) to take his place as deputy speaker.
Ting, chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Employment, was replaced by Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Luisa Loren Cuaresma.