By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte is expected to act as “moderator” during the dialogue among Congress leaders Tuesday night in Malacañang in a bid to resolve the stalemate on the proposed 2019 national budget.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President will listen to both sides and let them thresh out their differences on national budget proposal for the year.
Panelo said they were hoping “for the best” in the President’s meeting with the lawmakers.
“You know the style of the President – he listens. He listens and let the protagonists settle among themselves – kumbaga, moderator lang siya [he’s like a moderator],” he said during a Palace press briefing.
“I think they will be resolving that tonight,” he said about the budget impasse, citing the main goal of all branches of government was to advance the welfare of the people.
Panelo said lawmakers were aware of the adverse impact of a reenacted budget on government operations and projects.
“I will make an educated guess – I think they will be settled. They will be settled, kasi alam nila [because they know] that any reenacted budget will affect the operations of the government. Maraming maaapektuhan eh, kaya alam naman nila iyon, kaya siguro [Many will be affected so they know] that’s why they have by themselves initiated this dialogue,” he added.
Last Tuesday, the President declared that he would not sign an illegal document after senators and congressmen were at odds over alleged unconstitutional last-minute realignments. Duterte, in pushing for a new spending bill, also warned that a reenacted budget would affect the local economic growth, among others.
The House has been accused of making budget realignments after both chambers have ratified the 2019 budget bill last month. The Senate vowed to oppose the budget bill if it was indeed manipulated by the congressmen.
Asked if it was legal for congressmen to introduce realignments after ratification, Panelo admitted that this was a “gray area” that the Supreme Court would have to decide on.
“The final arbiter of any legal issue will be the Supreme Court. But why do you have to go to the Supreme Court if you can settle it among yourselves?” he said.
Once the two houses of Congress transmit the document to the Palace, Panelo assured the public that the President will evaluate the budget measure. He added the President was committed to reject any provision in the budget that will violate the Constitution.
“Anything that is illegal/unconstitutional, he will not be a part of that. Right now, there is a controversy between the House and the Senate – the Senate claims that the itemization of the 79-billion funds is unconstitutional, but the House claims that it is not. So, let us see,” he said.