62 congressmen affected by budget realignments

Published March 11, 2019, 8:40 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Hannah Torregoza

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday bared that at least 62 lawmakers in the House of Representatives were affected by the “realignments” when their leaders tinkered with the bicameral conference committee-approved the P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon

Drilon said this was discussed by the Senate leadership, led by Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senate Finance Committee chief Senator Loren Legarda, and Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson.

“We discussed this. There was indeed a report from the Senate Committee on Finance that P75-billion is being realigned. In other words, the House of Representatives is rearranging the furniture,” Drilon told reporters in an interview.

“I have asked the committee to furnish the senators with the details of this supposed P75-billion realignment,” added Drilon, who was also part of the meeting.

According to the minority leader, it was not only an itemization of a lump-sum, but that the items are being realigned so that those who appear to be sympathetic to former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and former majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas were deprived of the allocation or their allocation were reduced.

“Those in who are in favor of the present leadership are favored with additional allocation,” Drilon said, referring to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I have talked to two congressmen, one from the Visayas and one from Luzon. They asserted that 62 congressmen are affected by these realignments, not only itemization. This is the allocation of the HOR. The allegation is that, these items were in the National Expenditure Program (NEP), were carried in the General Appropriations Bill (GAB), were approved in bicam, and the ratified version of the bicam contained these allocations,” he explained.

According to Drilon, he would request Senator Legarda to furnish senators a copy of the details of the realignment.

“Because you cannot alter what was approved in the bicam, contained in the bicam report, and ratified by each chamber,” he said.

If the members of the Lower House would insist on realigning and changing certain allocations within the HOR, he would suggest that they reconvene the bicameral conference committee on May 20.

“If the HOR would want to realign and change certain allocations in the HOR, my suggestion is that, when we reconvene on May 20, we reconsider the ratification of the bicam report on the budget and reconvene the bicam and correct the alleged revisions in the final bicam report,” Drilon said.

“After the bicam report is ratified by both chambers, hindi na pwedeng palitan ito, because that would constitute unauthorized alterations of legislative records. You cannot change, even if you are the speaker of Senate president, what was approved by the chambers,” he said.

“The Senate President and the House Speaker are not superior to their respective chambers. It is the chambers, which approved this, and therefore, any revision must be approved by the chambers,” the Senate minority chief added.

Drilon also said that once they have the list, they will compare it with what was approved in the bicameral conference meeting and confirm that indeed alterations and realignments are being made, not only itemization.

“I’m confident that our staff can figure this out,” Drilon said.

“Even if it is printed, what should be printed is what was approved. If what is printed is not the one approved, we have advised Senate President Sotto not to sign it,” he said.

If the House lawmakers would insist they just tinkered on “typographical errors,” Drilon said then there would be no budget.

“The Senate President will not sign the enrolled copy. Then there will be no budget. I suggest the solution is, if they really want to do this and say, we are realigning our share of the pork barrel – let’s call a spade a spade – let’s reconsider the approval of the bicam report, reconvene the bicam, come up with a new ratified report, and have it printed. You cannot just revise and alter what was approved in the bicam,” he reiterated.