Gov’t underspends P500 M a day as budget squabble continues

Published March 19, 2019, 12:15 AM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Chino Leyco and Ben Rosario

The government is losing the op­portunity to provide funds amounting to around P500 million a day for better education, healthcare, infrastructure and job creation with every week that the Duterte administration is forced to operate on a reenacted budget, the Department of Finance (DOF) said yesterday.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III (Manila Bulletin)
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III
(Manila Bulletin)

“For the first quarter of the year, the fact that we did not have the budget that we presented meant that we had P46 billion less to spend in the first 90 days. Now, if you divide P46 billion into 90 days, that’s half a billion pesos a day that we are not spending to create jobs, that we are not spending to improve the infrastructure, that we are not spending for better healthcare, better education,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III explained.

For this reason, Dominguez renewed his call to the Lower House and the Sen­ate to break their impasse on the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) “soon enough.”

Budget squabble continues

The budget controversy has shifted from inter-parliamentary into an intra-parliamentary squabble as leaders of the Lower House turned against each other following the announcement of Sen. Pan­filo Lacson that the Lower Chamber has agreed to recall its version of the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act.

Immediately after Lacson announced the alleged recall decision made by San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, House ap­propriations chief Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. declared that Zamora was never given authority to make any decision on the budget measure already signed by former president now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Lacson boasted that Zamora has agreed to recall the “enrolled” bill that contain itemized details of the lump sum appropriations allocated to the House of Representatives.

“No congressman has the authority, without plenary approval, to order the re­call of the enrolled form of any bill already transmitted to the Senate,” Andaya said, in reaction to Lacson’s claim.

He added: “I really do not know what they are talking about.”

In an interview last Friday, Arroyo said the House has sent Zamora to “handle” the budget issue for the Lower House.

Zamora, a senior member of the powerful Commission on Appointments, admitted he indeed agreed to recall the Arroyo-signed document but said the move was a mere “sign of good faith in order to continue” the Senate-House bid to break the impasse on the budget measure.

He explained that Arroyo’s signing of the proposed GAA is not considered an act of enrolment of the bill. He pointed out that the budget measure can only be considered enrolled after Senate President Vicente Sotto III signs it.

Not an admission of wrongdoing

Reacting to Zamora’s move, Andaya stressed that the San Juan congressman is not authorized to undo what the plenary session has done.
“Recall of the 2019 GAB must also be done in the plenary session, with majority members of the House in approval,” the senior administration solon said. (With a report from Charissa M. Luci-Atienza)