By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Don’t hold the P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 hostage because of your personal vendetta against former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader and COOP-NATCCO party-list Rep. Anthony Bravo issued the appeal to Senator Panfilo Lacson, stressing that Arroyo will not benefit from the spending measure, but the “Filipino people.”
“The way I look at it, in my own assessment, Senator Panfilo Lacson is holding the budget hostage because of personal vendetta to our Speaker GMA. He has not said anything good about the Speaker from the very start of her leadership as Speaker. In fact, even before the change of leadership when there was a rumor that GMA would take over and would replace then Speaker Bebot Alvarez ay marami hong sinabi siya against the Speaker,” he told reporters in a press conference.
“I don’t have any personal grudge or animosity against Senator Ping Lacson. But in my own analysis, the agenda is clear – that he doesn’t want the Speaker to be successful in her leadership as a Speaker,” Bravo said.
He even questioned the apparent silence of Lacson’s colleagues in the Upper Chamber about the latter’s claims against the ratified 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“I know majority of the senators want to pass the budget, but I wonder why they are quiet about the remarks of their colleague, Senator Ping. Are they afraid of something or do they have something to hide?” the party-list lawmaker asked.
He re-echoed the assurance earlier made by Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. that there is nothing illegal with the 2019 national budget and that the House of Representatives did its part in itemizing the amendments to the GAA.
“The House did not do anything illegal in the budget,” Bravo pointed out.
He also clarified that Arroyo was not involved in the itemization of the lump-sum funds as earlier agreed at the conclusion of the meetings of the Bicameral Conference Committee.
“I don’t think the Speaker will be involved in the manner of distribution kasi ang message nya before we attended the bicam, she told us, in case there will be distribution that will be allowed by the Senate, it should be based on equitable principle,” he said.
“Walang involvement si Speaker. I have not seen her visiting the Committee on Appropriations,” Bravo said.
He called on the Senate to allow President Duterte to exercise his veto power and if he finds questionable portions and provisions in the GAA, he may veto them.
“Let us submit the GAA proposed enrolled bill to the President and allow the President to exercise his discretion, to use his veto power,” he said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III had earlier said the House of Representatives realigned some P79 billion in the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget.
Citing the report from the Senate’s Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO), Sotto said some P79 billion realignments under the ratified national budget included adjustments in the funding for local infrastructure projects and operations. He described such realignments as “a violation of the Constitution.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson had earlier said some House members informed him of the “worse” realignments made to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), although such claims have yet to be substantiated. He said the last-minute realignments were on top of the P160 million of supposed “pork” allocation for each congressman.
He had earlier bared that P25 million were inserted in the funds for Health Facilities Enhancement Program to benefit those who supported the Arroyo speakership.