By Ellson Quismorio
A House leader said Friday that it’s unfair to solely blame the Lower Chamber for the delayed passage of the 2019 national budget, which has, in turn, slowed down the country’s economic growth for the first quarter of the year.
According to COOP-NATCCO Party-List Rep. Anthony Bravo, their Senate counterparts deserve some blame as well since took time before finally deciding to subject the then-proposed P3.757-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to President Rodrigo Duterte’s discretion and exclusive veto power.
“Ako mismo nagsabi na kung ito (budget passage) ay napatagal masyado ay maaapektuhan ang ating GDP (Gross Domestic Product). At hindi ako nagkamali (I myself said that if the budget passage is delayed too much, our GDP would get affected. And I wasn’t wrong),” the Senior Deputy Minority Leader told House reporters in a chance interview.
“Hindi naman siguro tama na isisi natin lahat sa House of Representatives. Ginawa ho namin ang aming magagawa, ginawa namin ng tama ayon sa aming nakikita at trinansmit namin sa Senate nang mapadali,” Bravo said, adding that the singling out the House was “unfair.”
(It doesn’t seem right to blame everything on the House of Representatives. We did what we could, we did it right based on what we saw and transmitted it to the Senate to hasten the process.)
“Ano ang panawagan namin noon? Kung may nakikitang mali, kung mayroon yung sinasabi nilang insertion, ang panawagan namin noon i-proceed na (What was our appeal back then? If they saw something wrong or these so-called insertions, our appeal was to proceed with it) and let the President decide using his veto power.
“Bakit tumagal? Matagal ho silang naka-decide, ang Senate, na i-transmit [ang budget] sa President so that he can exercise the veto power. Ano hong nangyari in between? Mayroon bang ginalaw umpisa nang trinansmit ng House of Representatives sa Senate? Walang ginalaw! Trinansmit nila the same [sa Malacañang]. Tumagal po sa Senate hindi sa House,” recalled Bravo
(Why did it take time? It took the Senate a while to decide to transmit the budget to the President so that he can exercise the veto power. What happened in between? Did the Senate change anything when it was transmitted by the House of Representatives? They didn’t touch it! They submitted the same to Malacañang. It took time in the Senate, not in the House.)
The Philippines’ GDP grew by 5.6 percent during the first three months of 2019, which is 4-5 percentage points lowered that what had been forecasted. For comparison, GDP growth during the final quarter of 2018 was 6.3 percent.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ernesto Pernia attributed the slow growth to the reenacted 2018 budget that the government had been forced to operate on for much of the current year.
The 2019 GAB was ratified by both chambers of Congress last February 8. However, Senate President Tito Sotto and anti-pork barrel crusader Senator Panfilo Lacson opposed the amendments that House members did to the GAB after it was ratified, calling the move unconstitutional.
The amendments had to do with the itemization of the individual congressmen’s pet projects in their districts.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman and Camarines Sur 1st district Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. have argued that the move is legal since it is not a post-enactment move, which is the very definition of pork barrel as per the Supreme Court (SC).
In early April, Sotto signed the budget bill anyway, but with “strong reservations.” This paved the way for Duterte’s signing of the GAB on April 15.
Bravo slagged the Senate for not even providing them with a detailed list of their own insertions to the budget.
“Ngayon sinasabi nila, hindi daw klaro ang ginawa ng House. Hinihingi namin ang klaro; ano ba ang ginawa ng Senate doon sa sinasabi nilang insertion na nakita ng ating chairman? Hanggang ngayon wala silang binibigay.”
(Now they’re saying, what the House did wasn’t clear. What we’ve been asking for is clarity; what did the Senate do regarding the insertion that was seen by our chairman? Up to now they haven’t provided us with anything.)
In the end, Bravo admitted that the House was at fault for failing to pass the budget at their level during the last quarter of 2018, which was the ideal time frame.
“Kung mayroon man kaming pagkukulang, hindi po 100 percent yung pagkukulang sa House. Lahat ho tayo dito naging parte. Nagtagal din ho siya sa Senate, hindi lang sa House (If we had any shortcomings, the House can’t be blamed for 100 percent of it. We were all party to it. It took time at the Senate, not just at that the House.).”