Sotto denies supposed “vendetta” as cause of row over 2019 national budget

Published March 14, 2019, 9:10 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday reiterated that a supposed “vendetta” against House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is not driving the congressional row over the 2019 proposed national budget.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III gestures after elected as a newly Senate President at Senate Building in Pasay city, May 21,2018.(Czar Dancel)
Senate President Vicente Sotto III

Sotto, in an interview on CNN Philippines, clarified that the Senate has no problems with Arroyo as claimed by some members of the House of Representatives.

He admitted, though, that they are not seeing eye-to-eye with House leaders in some measure, particularly the P3.757-trillion government spending program for this year.

“Wala naman akong sinasabing mahirap silang kausap, ang sinasabi ko, is hindi kami nagkikita eye to eye. Hindi kami nagtutugma eye to eye, at yung sinasabi nila sa amin ay hindi namin matanggap,” the Senate chief said.

Sotto defended anew Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who, according to Senior Deputy Minority Leader and COOP-NATCCO party-list Rep. Anthony Bravo, was nitpicking on the House’s realignments in the 2019 national budget due to his “personal vendetta” on Arroyo.

Lacson, on Wednesday, said Arroyo could be charged for signing a “falsified 2019 budget, referring to the enrolled copy sent by the Lower Chamber to the Senate, which reportedly contained the post-ratification realignments by congressmen.

“No I don’t think so, not at all. As a matter of fact, nasasabi na lang ‘yon because that is the consequence. Hindi naman namin problema si Speaker, ang problema namin, yung mga nakapaligid sa kanya,”  Sotto said, citing the House appropriations committee handling the 2019 budget.

Asked if he was referring to appropriations committee chair Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., Sotto said: “Probably, and the members of the Committee on Appropriations that are doing this.”

He repeated that he, and Arroyo, could suffer the consequences of certifying the revised budget bill, which he believed was illegal.

“If I sign that, I will be violating the revised penal code Section 170, which is the falsification of legislative documents punishable by a penalty of prison correctional to its maximum term. Ayoko naman nun, not mentioning the fact that it’s unconstitutional,” Sotto said.

“That is not what we ratified, how can I agree to something that we did not do?” he added.

If the impasse was not resolved during the 17th Congress, Sotto said he hopes to have a “cordial” relationship with new House leadership in the next Congress, with the “influence” of President Duterte.