House rests case on 2019 budget

Published March 27, 2019, 11:45 AM

by Francine Ciasico

By Ben Rosario 

The House of Representatives will respect presidential discretion in the approval or veto of the enrolled 2019 General Appropriations Bill, and will no longer defend its position on the budget measure from the fault-finding waged by the Senate leadership.

Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., Chairman of House Appropriations Committee (MARK BALMORES / MANILA BULLETIN)
Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., Chairman of House Appropriations Committee (MARK BALMORES / MANILA BULLETIN)

Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said it was now up to President Rodrigo Duterte if he will uphold Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s recommendation for the veto of P75 billion in infrastructure fund that the Lower House itemized.

“Once enacted into law, I assure the taxpaying public that the national budget for 2019 will pass not only the test of constitutionality and legality, but also of transparency and accountability,” Andaya said in a press statement.

Andaya stressed that congressmen “worked double time” to guarantee Filipino taxpayers that their legislative district “will get a fair share of the budget.”

“We took time to examine the budget in order to expunge programs and projects not vetted by appropriate government agencies and institutional mechanisms,” he explained.

The enrolment of the budget bill followed long bickering between the House and Senate leadership as the latter accused congressmen of tinkering with the P75-billion infrastructure budget after the bicameral committee report on the measure was ratified by the Lower Chamber.

House leaders, among them Majority Leader Fredenil Castro and oppositionists Minority Leader Danilo Suarez (UNA, Quezon) and Rep. Edcel Lagman (LP, Albay), insisted that there was nothing unconstitutional in the itemization of lump sum provisions of the budget, adding that what was done was part of ensuring transparency in the budget process.

“We may have locked horns with senators on contentious issues, but both sides chose to work on our commonalities rather than waste precious time over disagreements,” said Andaya.

He added: “That is democracy at work. We are confident that the product of this democratic process will help improve our economic situation and uplift the lives of ordinary Filipinos.”

It will be recalled that former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had affixed her signature on the proposed 2019 GAA two weeks ago. but later agreed to recall it from the Senate to give way to negotiations.

Castro assigned Andaya, Lagman and Ronaldo Zamora (PDP-laban, San Juan) to end the budget impasse with a Senate counterpart.

Bicameral sources said the two panels agreed to enrol the GAA that contained the itemized provisions made by the House but, at the same time, allow Sotto to submit a letter airing to Duterte his misgivings over the measure and recommendation for veto of the congressmen’s provision.

A House source also confirmed that Lower Chamber will no longer issue press statements assailing Sotto’s action.