By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
President Duterte will be meeting Congress leaders to resolve the impasse between the Senate and House of Representatives over the P3.757-trillion proposed 2019 budget.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III announced this Tuesday, saying the Chief Executive himself called for the meeting.
“Pinatawag na ako ng Presidente mamayang gabi (I was summoned by the President for a meeting later tonight),” Sotto said in a radio interview Tuesday morning.
Sotto will be accompanied by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, finance committee chair Sen. Loren Legarda, and Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Gregorio Honasan.
They will be facing House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and appropriations committee chair Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. who were also invited to the dinner meeting at the Palace.
The Senate chief also confirmed Monday night that the Upper Chamber has received the final copy of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill signed by Arroyo.
The Senate’s Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) has also started reviewing the document sent by the House to compare it with the version ratified by Congress last February 8.
Sotto said he expects the LBRMO review to wrap up before his meeting with Duterte so that he could report the Senate’s findings.
He reiterated that he will not sign the GAB if they find that the House indeed made the P79-billion realignments in the budget measure after its ratification, which he stressed, was unconstitutional.
He also welcomed President Duterte when he said he will not sign an “illegal” budget.
“I’m glad to hear that. I’ll save him the trouble by not signing it,” Sotto told reporters in a message when asked for his comment on the President’s remarks.
Lacson, for his part, said the meeting would be a “good opportunity” to resolve the Senate and House’s squabble regarding the 2019 government spending program.
“We won’t be there to quarrel but to resolve the issues surrounding the budget,” he said in a separate text message.
But as far as senators are concerned, Lacson said they will stand by the constitutional prohibition on revision of ratified bills.
“SP (Sotto), Sen. Legarda and I will stick to the issue at hand,” he said, adding that the Duterte administration agrees with them.