By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III has welcomed the House of Representative’s move to finally recall its 2019 national budget draft containing its itemizations.
“I welcome the retrieval, I could have sent it back for being unfaithful to what was approved by the bicam and ratified in plenary but I did not as prudence dictates,” Sotto told reporters in a text message Wednesday afternoon.
House appropriations committee chairman and Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya Jr. said Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the retrieval of the budget books it sent the Senate last week in an effort to end the long-running stalemate on the P3.757-trillion proposed government spending program for 2019.
This was a day after Arroyo said that they will not withdraw their itemizations on the budget bill, maintaining that lump sum appropriations are unconstitutional.
Sotto has refused to sign the House-transmitted documents for enrollment to the President, insisting that their counterpart recall and revert the measure to the version approved by both houses of Congress.
“Our Congress is bicameral. It’s very elementary,” the Senate chief said.
Sotto said he will ask Senators Loren Legarda and Panfilo Lacson to represent the Upper Chamber in the meeting with House counterparts to thresh out the issues on the 2019 General Appropriations Bill.
Lacson said they will insist on the Senate’s position about the proposed budget.
“On the part of the Senate, kung ano ‘yong inaprubahan ng joint bicam, at ratified ng both houses, ‘yon ang dapat i-transmit sa Malacañang,” Lacson said in a DZMM interview also Wednesday afternoon.
He assured anew that Congress may pass a supplemental budget for the items that might be vetoed by President Duterte.
Palace urged to force House
Earlier Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri also urged the Palace to exert “pressure” on the House of Representatives to finally break the impasse on the 2019 budget.
Zubiri stressed anew the importance of enacting the 2019 budget, saying this would affect the country’s economic growth.
“I would appeal to Malacañang to exert pressure on the House of Representatives to just return the version approved by the Senate and House of Representatives last month,” he told reporters in an interview.
Suarez a ‘liar’
Sotto, meanwhile, slammed House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez for insinuating that a “silent majority” in Senate opposed his and Lacson’s stance on the budget.
Suarez quoted Legarda, who chairs the Senate finance committee.
“BTW, I asked Loren restatement of Danny Suarez. Well now I know, Danny Suarez is a fabulist,” Sotto said.
Legarda also took to Twitter her denial of the House official’s claims, saying it was an attempt to misinform the people.
“We all stand by Senate Pres Tito Sotto re the budget. From the start. Unequivocally. Any misinformation is just that. Misinformation,” Legarda tweeted.
Lacson, for his part, recalled Legarda telling him that Suarez “kept pestering her about the budget which she had ignored.”
“Has Cong. Suarez, the House “company union” minority leader become so desperate for his share of the pork allocation that he now resorts to lying just to get his bounty?” Lacson said.
“Or, is it because the abolition of the MVUC Road Board will have an immeasurable negative impact on some of the congressmen’s traditional source of largess?”
Lacson reiterated that senators, “both in the majority and minority are solidly behind our SP on the budget issue.”