By Ben Rosario
Former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday slammed Senator Panfilo Lacson for claiming that the House of Representatives has agreed to adopt his position on the budget issue, stressing that such stand “is unconstitutional.”
Arroyo declared Tuesday an obstinate stand on the proposed 2019 national budget by insisting that the Lower House will not accede to the demand of Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Lacson that allocations for health facilities be reverted to lump sum provision, instead of being itemized as contained in the House version.
“If we don’t come to an agreement and then Tito Sotto does not sign the bill, then there’s no bill to send to the President,” said Arroyo in an interview yesterday.
“So I do not know if we will but I would wish we would,” she added.
Arroyo belied Lacson’s claim that the Lower House has withdrawn “our version” of the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act.
“No, we have not withdrawn our version. We’re in discussions about what is the proposed new version,” said Arroyo.
The House leader called members of the Lower House to a meeting to discuss the issue.
Lacson claimed that the Lower House, through San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, has withdrawn the budget measure that was signed by Arroyo and sent to the Senate for Sotto’s signature.
Lacson apparently interpreted Zamora’s move to recall the “enrolled version” as an acceptance of the Senate leadership’s insistence that the itemization of some P75 billion allocation be reverted to lump sum appropriations.
“We will insist on no lump sum because that is what is unconstitutional,” said Arroyo.
She added: “That’s what we will insist, no lump sum. Now, as to the details, that’s the one that we’ll see.”
Earlier, Arroyo sent Zamora to discuss the budget issue with Senate leaders. She made the move after signing the budget measure and sent it to Sotto for his signature.
Zamora, a senior member of the powerful Commission on Appointments, said the move should be taken as a mere “sign of good faith in order to continue” the Senate-House bid to break the impasse on the budget measure.
The veteran congressman 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 enroled as soon as the Senate President has signed it.
Interviewed in Tacloban City, Asst. Minority Leader and Coop-Nattco Partylist Rep. Anthony Bravo backed Arroyo’s stand on the issue, saying the Lower House should maintain its stand to “be transparent about the budget bill.”
Bravo said all decision about the budget should have the approval of Arroyo and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya, Jr., as the chairman of the Committee on Appropriations.
Andaya, for his part said only a majority of House members can decide on whether or not to recall the budget prepared by the chamber.
“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.