President will end lengthy budget impasse – Solon

Published March 20, 2019, 4:15 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Ellson Quismorio

House Minority Leader, Quezon 3rd district Rep. Danilo Suarez expects President Duterte to finally put his foot down in order to end the lengthy impasse on the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget between the House and the Senate.

House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez (KJ ROSALES / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez (KJ ROSALES / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“At the end of the day mapipilitan na siyang (Duterte) mag-aksyon dito dahil hindi pwedeng ganito na katagal yung impasse (He will be forced to act because the impasse can’t last this long),” Suarez said the Minority Bloc’s weekly press conference at the House of Representatives.

The two chambers of Congress have been butting heads over the delayed enactment of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) despite them jointly ratifying it last February 8.

“The Minority reiterates the importance of the approval and enactment of this budget to address the current needs of the people. We repeat our call for its immediate passage. We urge our fellow lawmakers to look at the bigger picture and consider the long-term effects of this re-enacted budget,” Suarez said, adding that the delivery of services in the sectors of public education and health have been suffering as a result of the stalemate.

The Senate, specifically Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson, are opposing the amendments that House members did to the GAB after it was ratified, calling the move unconstitutional.

But congressmen have shown that all they did post-ratification was to itemize the lump-sum realignments in the budget, something that is required of them by the November 2013 Supreme Court (SC) decision that declared pork barrel or discretionary funds illegal.

Leaders from both chambers took part in a meeting in Malacañang earlier this month for the purpose of ending the budget row. In the end, President Duterte basically told them to work out their differences together.

“Siguro inasahan niya na magkakaroon ng meeting of the minds (I think he expected a meeting of the minds to occur),” Suarez said.

With such scenario looking improbable, AKO-Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said that all hopes on the GAB’s passage is pinned on the President.

“Tingin ko ang pag-asa dyan pag sinabihan sila ng Presidente, ‘I-submit niyo, ako i-exercise ko yung power ko to veto kapag mayroong unconstitutional dyan (I think the only hope is for the President to tell them, ‘Submit the budget and I will exercise by power to veto if I find something constitutional there),” said Garbin, who is a Senior Deputy Minority Leader.

The GAB is unique in that individual lines of the proposed law can be vetoed by the President; with other pieces of legislation, the veto is applied on the bill wholesale.

“Sa tingin ko sa lalong madaling panahon (I think, in the soonest time possible), the President will call [on the House and Senate leadership], and make a strong pronouncement,” Garbin said.

The Philippine government has been running on a reenacted 2018 budget since January.