By Ben Rosario
President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the 2019 General Appropriations Act neither put an end to the bickering between the House of Representatives and the Senate nor douse speculations on which side he favored.
But senators and congressmen were quick to deny sourgraping about Duterte’s action with leaders of the two chambers declaring support for the full implementation of the administration’s program for 2019.
Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said that after the budget squabble that triggered the belated passage and presidential approval of the P3.757 trillion national appropriation, it is now time to “buckle down to work.”
“With the signing, we can all buckle down to work and start implementing the President’s priority projects for the Filipino people,” stated Castro on Monday night, a few hours after Malacañang announced the signing of the budget measure.
Castro pledged that the Lower House will “continue to work in harmony with the President’s desire” to improve the lives of Filipinos.
“We respect his decision to veto some items in the budget. We will abide with the President’s decision and respect the thorough study made by his team after all factors were considered,” Castro said in a press statement.
Statements of similar tenor were released by Senate members who are still smarting from accusations hurled by House leaders that they spoiled key programs of Duterte by re-allocating funds to finance the senators’ own projects.
Chief Senate accuser and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. said Duterte’s veto of budget items worth P95.3 billion was a mere “conditional kind”.
“As such, the appropriation remains but its release is subject to conditions,” said Andaya, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.
Malacañang admitted that there were indeed conditional veto on budget provisions in order to ensure conformity with existing laws, rules and regulations.
Among these budget items are the funding of allowance and benefits of teachers and creation of teaching positions, construction of evacuation centers, funding for foreign-assisted projects, revolving fund and lump-sum appropriations for capital outlay, financial assistance to local government units, and funding requirements of our foreign service.
To end speculations, Andaya urged the Palace to release the President’s veto message “in full immediately” in order for the House to react.
“My friends in the Senate are going to town claiming victory over the deletion of the House amendments. Does this mean that the Senate pork remains intact?” he asked.
At the same time, Andaya dared senators to observe transparency by publicly declaring “how much in their insertions” made it to the final approval of the budget.
“And how big is the bacon each senator is bringing home?” the veteran administration lawmaker said.
“On the part of the House, we have been transparent as to the authorship of the amendments. The Senate has been silent about theirs. It’s time to break their Omerta,” he stressed.