By Mario Casayuran
Once again, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian on Thursday called on the House of Representatives leadership to end the Senate-Lower House stalemate over the proposed 2019 P3.757 trillion national budget by recalling its tampered version and reverting to the version of the budget that was ratified by both chambers of Congress.
Gatchalian made the call as the Department of Education (DepEd) could not begin to construct more classrooms and hire more teachers for the coming 2019-2020 school year starting in June without the new national budget in operation.
At present, the national government is operating under a re-enacted 2018 budget which has no appropriations for new projects or programs.
‘’We should not let our teachers and schoolchildren suffer just because of the machinations of some members of the House of Representatives,’’ Gatchalian said.
The refusal by the Lower House to submit to the Senate leadership its ratified version of the bicameral conference report on the proposed 2019 budget before they went on a three-month break last February 9 for the May 2019 mid-term elections has created the impasse.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, a member of the Senate majority bloc, stressed that the senators, both in the majority and minority blocs, are solidly behind Senate President Vicente Sotto III on the budget issue.
‘’In fact, it was upon the advice of Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon that Senate President Sotto and the Senate secretary could be prone to committing falsification of legislative documents if they sign the House transmitted draft Enrolled Bill,’’ he said.
Drilon is a former Senate President and a former Justice Secretary during the Cory Aquino presidency.
Lacson earlier said that the reason why the House leadership is hesitant in submitting to Sotto its ratified budget report is that it has inserted individual pork barrel allocations of House members.
He cited figures from the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) showed a net increase of P95.1 billion in the Lower House’s realignment.
‘’Worse, the Duterte administration’s ‘’Build, Build, Build’’ legacy program was not spared, as the House slashed P72.319 billion from the DPWH’s (Department of Public Works and Highways) Major Final Output (MFO) 1 and 2,’’ he added.
Lacson also revealed that Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate finance committee, had told him that House Minority Leader
Danilo Suarez, an ally of former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, kept pestering her about the budget ‘’which she had ignored.’’
‘’Has Congressman 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?’’ he asked.
‘’Or, is it because the abolition of the MVUC Road Board will have immeasurable negative impact on some of the congressmen’s traditional source of largess?’’ he added.