By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could be held criminally liable for signing the version of the 2019 budget which contained post-ratification amendments by the House of Representatives.
“Since Speaker Arroyo already signed the HOR version of the enrolled bill, she’s already prone to being charged for falsification because she’s already certified something that did not take place,” Lacson told reporters in an interview in Senate.
The senator was first to expose the realignments made by the Lower Chamber to the P3.757-trillion proposed national budget this year after its ratification in both houses of Congress last February 8.
Congressmen did not deny this but said they were merely itemizing the lump sum appropriations that are supposedly in the budget bill.
Lacson insisted that the post-bicameral itemization would violate the Constitution and other laws, appealing to their counterpart to spare the Senate from such an “illegal” act.
He added that his colleagues would not allow Senate President Vicente Sotto III to violate the Constitution and to commit the crime of falsification.
“Ang House, huwag nila kami pilitin mag-violate ng Constitution. Huwag kami isama. Kung gusto nila mag-violate (To the House, do not force us to violate the Constitution. Spare us. If they want to violate),” he said.
Arroyo, he noted, already violated laws for certifying the “falsified” enrolled copy of the 2019 budget sent by the Lower Chamber to the Senate.
“She already signed. Hindi consummated ang GAA (General Appropriations Act) but the act of signing a falsified document is already consummated. So many taxpayer can go to the Ombudsman or DOJ (Department of Justice) to file a criminal complaint against her for falsification,” Lacson explained.
Members of the Senate and House met on Tuesday night with President Duterte to supposedly settle the impasse on the 2019 national budget.
Lacson had proposed the recall of the House-transmitted copy of the budget and retain the version earlier approved by both chambers to allow the President to exercise his veto power should there indeed be lump sum appropriations as insisted by congressmen.
Arroyo, according to Lacson, was quiet for the whole duration of the meeting and let House appropriations committee chair Rolando Andaya Jr. speak for them.
The meeting had been “very civil,” he said, despite the House’s firm stance about retaining their “itemizations.”
Meanwhile, Senate finance committee chair Loren Legarda rejected proposals to reconvene the bicameral conference committee as a way to end the budget deadlock.
Lacson said Legarda believed that House would only insist their position and further delay the enactment of the budget.
“And in effect, sabi ni Loren — and I believe her — ‘Ano, i-legitimize natin ang katakot-takot na pork nila by reconvening BCC and tanggapin natin lahat para lang maging constitutional because it’s within the bicam?’,” he noted, adding that it could be considered grave abuse of discretion.
“Unless they indicate a change of heart, di namin i-insist ang pork,” he added.