By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives took a solid stand to defend its version of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill as the Liberal Party-led opposition bloc came out strongly in support of the measure.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who heads the Magnificent 7 opposition bloc, said the House-backed GAB that has been signed by former president and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is “completely constitutional and legal.”
“I will not support any House action or measure which violates the constitution and relevant statutes, and the House version is free from any constitutional or legal infirmities,” declared Lagman in a press statement.
House Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro welcomed Lagman’s stand on the issue, saying that this further strengthens the position of the House leadership that the budget measure, including the itemization of lump sum provisions, should be enacted immediately.
“I have high hopes that Cong Edcel Lagman’s support will convince the Senate that the position of the House of Representatives is standing on high constitutional and legal grounds,” said Castro.
Asst. Minority Leader and Coop-Nattco Partylist Rep. Anthony Bravo said the minority bloc is convinced that the House version of the proposed P3.575 trillion budget measures address the requirement of transparency in the budget process.
The majority and minority blocs in the Lower Chamber have come out strongly to support the bill even as Sen. Panfilo Lacson has claimed that San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, who was reportedly authorized to help unlock the budget impasse, has reportedly agreed to withdraw from the Senate the 2019 GAB that has been signed by Arroyo.
The alleged recall of the budget measure triggered speculations that the House leadership has agreed to take the position of Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III that itemized provisions be reverted to lump sum as contained in the original bicameral conference committee report.
But Lagman slammed the Senate position even as he stressed that the House leadership’s move was a mere “show of good faith” aimed at paving the way for “immediate meaningful and sober dialogues to finally resolve the impasse.”
“Moreover, the House version of the budget measure is entirely compliant with the ratified bicameral conference committee report.,” he stressed.
“As former chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, I know that traditionally and invariably what the bicameral conference committee approves are the respective expenditure ceilings of the departments and agencies, but the Senate and the House are authorized separately to complete the details within the ceilings,” the opposition leader said.