Andaya: 2019 GAB sent to Palace

Published March 11, 2019, 5:41 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Ellson Quismorio

The House of Representatives is sending to Malacañang an advance copy of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) in a move that supposedly tells the Senate to its face: we did our job better.

“I’m here to show you the 2019 budget…and we intend to send this to the Palace this afternoon. Copies for the Senate have already been sent,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Camarines Sur (1st district) Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. said told reporters in a press conference.

Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., Chairman of House Appropriations Committee (MARK BALMORES / MANILA BULLETIN)
Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., Chairman of House Appropriations Committee (MARK BALMORES / MANILA BULLETIN)

Andaya, the head of the House contingent in the Bicameral Conference Committee on the budget showed media four voluminous books that comprise the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.

“Mission accomplished na kami (We’ve accomplished our mission),” the congressman said, stressing that it’s high-time the much-delayed 2019 budget gets enacted. The government has been running on a reenacted 2018 budget since the start of the year.

Both chambers of Congress ratified the 2019 GAB back on February 8, or the last day of sessions before the lengthy election recess.

Andaya earlier said that he and his Senate counterpart, Senator Loren Legarda had agreed on P99 billion worth of lump sum realignments in the 2019 GAB during their one-on-one meeting last month prior to the ratification.

Andaya in the Monday presser bared that the 23-member Senate submitted its breakdown or itemization of the lump sum on February 11, or just three days after the ratification.

He said that the Senate’s list contained the individual costs, districts, and implementing agencies of pet projects, but the senators who placed these projects weren’t named.

“Hanggang ngayon hindi ko pa nakikita kung sino yung mga senador na pinagbigyan ng mga proyekto (Up to now I haven’t seen the names of senators who were given projects),” said Andaya, who refused to give media a copy of the Senate list. The GAB had to be signed by the President first, he said.

Exhaustive

Senators–and some House members for that matter–have assailed the House for allegedly making “amendments” to the 2019 GAB that was agreed upon on February 8 before the printing of the document. Anti-pork barrel Senator Panfilo Lacson even claimed that Senate President Vicente Sotto III was unlikely to sign the enrolled copy of the GAB due to last-minute changes by the congressmen.

The GAB must first be signed by the House Secretary-General, the House Speaker, the Senate Secretary-General, and then the Senate President before it could be signed by the Chief Executive.

This makes the House’s act of submitting the 2019 GAB to Malacañang via the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)–along with the complete project itemization of the nearly 300 individual congressmen–more of the chamber’s way of saying they did their job better.

“Kung transparency lang ang pinag-uusapan, nangunguna ang House of Representatives (As far as transparency is concerned, the House of Representatives has a leg up),” Andaya said, throwing shade at the senators.

“Lahat ng mga project na gagawin hanggang sa mga barangay (Every project that will be done down to the villages), it’s all here. This is the product of the Speaker (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s) effort to show you where your money is being spent. Ngayon lang naging ganito ka-exhaustive (This is the first time it became this exhaustive),” the Bicolano said.

Not House’s fault

Andaya, a lawyer, said he never understood the senators’ complaints regarding the House’s itemization process following the budget ratification. “We did the same thing they (senators) did.”

He said that the November 2013 Supreme Court (SC) decision being cited by the House’s detractors “does not even aply” in their case, since what they did was a post-ratification action and not post-enactment. The 2019 budget doesn’t become a law until President Duterte signs it.

Post-enactment realignments within the budget are defined by this particular SC ruling as pork barrel, and are therefore unconstitutional.

Asked who should take the blame in case the government runs on a recycled budget the full year, Andaya answered: “Well, definitely it’s not the House’s [fault]. We did our job.
We were hurried into this. The Bicam was on record, everything was stated na gusto naming magkaroon ng [bagong] budget (we wanted a new budget).”

“Ginawa namin ang trabaho namin, pinaghirapan namin to (We did our job, we toiled for this),” he noted.

 
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