By Ellson Quismorio
A ranking member of the House of Representatives said Monday that a cool-headed conversation between the two chambers of Congress is all that’s needed to get past the current budget deadlock.
“I think it would be best for both Houses, through our leaders, to come together and talk it out to break the impasse we presently have,” said Camiguin lone district Rep. Xavier Jesus “XJ” Romualdo.
Romualdo chairs the Good Government and Public Accountability panel in the House of Representatives, which for weeks now has been at odds with the Senate regarding the much-delayed passage of the P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.
Earlier, Romualdo’s House colleague, 1-SAGIP Party-List Rep. and House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Rodante Marcoleta challenged Senate President Vicente Sotto III and anti-pork barrel crusade Senator Panfilo Lacson to a debate in order to publicly defend their respective chamber’s position on the stalled General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
“I think a debate or face-off may not be the best thing to do, perhaps a dialogue would be better,” reckoned Romualdo, a lawyer.
“After all, I believe both houses share the same goal, which is to have the 2019 budget enacted into law,” underscored the Mindanao congressman.
The House and the Senate have until the resumption of sessions this coming May to iron out their differences and jointly submit the GAB to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
The House has already finished its task with the GAB in that the document has already been signed by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and acting Secretary General Dante Maling. In fact, an advanced copy of the House-approved GAB has been sent to the Palace via the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Reports said Sotto has refused to sign the GAB over insinuations that the “amendments” that the House did to the proposed budget after its ratification by both chambers last February 8 was akin to inserting illegal pork barrel.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Camarines Sur 1st district Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. has since explained that only post-enactment tweaks to the budget law is prohibited, and not post-ratification changes.
The Philippine government has been running on a reenacted 2018 budget since January.
Meanwhile, Senior Deputy Minority Leader, COOP-NATCCO Party-Lost Rep. Anthony Bravo said Lacson’s statement saying that the House has agreed to recall the budget is nothing but “fake news.”
“Balita ni Senator Ping ay isa na namang fake news! Desperado na yata talaga siya kasi bistado na sila na ang gusto nila ay lump sum na unconstitutional (Senator Lacson is again spewing fake news! He seems to be desperate since their [Senate] desire for unconstitutional lump sums is out),” Bravo said.
Reports said that as per Lacson, San Juan City lone district Rep. Ronaldo Zamora called him up Sunday to tell him that the House leadership has agreed to recall their version of the enrolled GAB.