Senate, House brace for stalemate on 2019 national budget

Published March 8, 2019, 5:31 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate and House of Representatives may find themselves in yet another stalemate over the P3.757-trillion proposed 2019 national budget amid new allegations that congressmen are still manipulating the spending bill.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson (CZAR DANCEL / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson

Senator Panfilo Lacson raised the possibility on Friday that Senate President Vicente Sotto III may reject the final copy of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) should it contain the supposed changes made by the House that he revealed days ago.

Lacson, in a radio interview Friday, said he advised Sotto against signing the enrolled budget bill because some of its provisions were not approved and ratified by the Upper Chamber.

“Sabi ko mahirap pirmahan ‘yan bilang Senate President dahil in effect…magiging complicit ang Senado sa violation ng legislative process pati ng Constitution ‘pag pinirmahan niya ‘yan (I told him that signing it would in effect make the Senate complicit in violating the legislative process and the Constitution),” Lacson told DZBB.

“Sabi niya [Sotto] titingnan muna namin bago niya pirmahan (He said we will review it before he signs it),” he added, quoting Sotto.

Lacson said the enactment of the 2019 budget remains “iffy” especially if the Senate, through Sotto, insists to retain the congressional bicameral report on the GAB if changes were indeed found.

There would be “no budget”, according to Lacson, if the Senate President refuses to sign the enrolled bill.

“Kung papayag ang HOR na walang babaguhin sa bicameral report at yan naman ang nararapat ayon sa Constitution, mai-enrolled bill yan. Pero kung di papayag ang HOR at pilit nila kailangan ipasok natin ang pagbabagong aming ginawa, stalemate ‘yan (If the HOR will agree that no changes will be made to the bicameral report, which is what was actually allowed by the Constitution, it will be enrolled for the President’s signature. But if it disagrees and insists on inserting its amendments, then there would be a stalemate),” he said.

“Ibig sabihin hindi maipapasa sa Malacañang yan at hindi natin alam hanggang kailan tayo mag-operate under a reenacted budget (Then it means it would not be forwarded to Malacañang and we won’t know until when we would have to operate under a reenacted budget),” he warned.

Lacson stood by his exposè that House leaders were still “tweaking” the Congress-ratified GAB to include alleged pork insertions.

Aside from the P25-million allocation for “favored congressmen” through the Department of Health’s budget for Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), Lacson, on Friday, bared that House officials also allegedly made realignments in the Department of Public Works and Highways’ allocation for 2019.

“May nagsasabi na kongresista di lang doon (DOH) ‘yan, pati mga infrastructure projects meron ding paggalaw na ginawa,” he said.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo already denied Lacson’s accusations.

Sotto, last Tuesday, vowed to reject the changes allegedly made by the Lower Chamber in the Congress-ratified 2019 national budget.

“I will not sign anything that we did not approve. You should know me better than that,” the Senate chief had told reporters.