Repercussions of the prolonged delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget still linger until today. GDP growth decelerated in the first two quarters of this year, attributed by the Department of Finance (DOF) to the 105-day reenactment of the 2018 budget that prevented the government from spending almost P100 billion for public goods and services.
DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the underspending was definitely a drag on growth due to around P1-billion in unspent funds per day that should have gone to priority programs and projects. The opportunity cost was even higher than the P95.4-billion that some members of the House of Representatives inserted in the P3.7-trillion general appropriations bill (GAB). It may be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed these unprogramned infrastructure appropriations when he signed the 2019 GAB last April.
No wonder that the trust and approval ratings of then House Speaker Gloria Arroyo were the lowest among the top five officials of the land. Pulse Asia’s June 2019 nationwide survey showed Arroyo’s trust rating at only 22% vis-a-vis President Duterte at 85%, Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo at 52%, Senate President Vicente Sotto III at 73%, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin at 35%.
Upon assuming the Speakership in the 18th Congress, Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano urged his colleagues to help transform the image of the House and encouraged fellow lawmakers to make the legislative chamber a “House of the People” where the power of the purse is wielded wisely. His observation was that Filipinos love their Congressmen but hate the House as an institution.
Speaker Cayetano wants the House to be “held in high esteem the same way that Filipinos respect the Senate as a whole.” He is bent on instituting reforms starting with the national budget, which will not be used as a tool to commit corruption under his watch. One way of achieving his vision is by keeping a sharp eye on the proposed 2020 GAB and ensuring that it is pork-free without illegal insertions or “parked” funds.
Allegations of pork barrel insertions and the “parking” of suspicious lump sums allocated for congressional districts without any specific use hounded the approval of the 2019 GAB. Such a disgraceful practice would now be a thing of the past if Cayetano makes good on his commitment to come up with a national budget that is constitutional, legal, transparent, and accountable – after securing a pledge from House leaders that the budget would be scrutinized but not delayed.
Recently, when Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte and House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Isidro Ungab had a slight misunderstanding over Villafuerte’s move to withdraw from plenary the P4.1-trillion 2020 GAB filed by Ungab, Cayetano immediately stepped in to resolve the problem.
Villafuerte considered the filing premature since the budget hearings were still ongoing at the committee level, while Ungab pointed out that the established practice was to prepare the GAB as soon as Malacanang submits the National Expenditure Program to Congress. Cayetano quickly called the two to a meeting along with other House leaders and thereafter pronounced the matter fully resolved, while no other statement about the misunderstanding was heard from either Villafuerte or Ungab.
SEMINAR ON CYBER LIBEL AND FAKE NEWS
Our businesses can be easy prey to purveyors of fake news and cyber libel. Know the remedies against these fraudulent practices that inflict harm on firms and individuals. Attend this seminar on digital threats organized by the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX).
National Bureau of Investigation Cyber Crime Division Chief Victor Lorenzo and Atty. Rose Marie Dominguez of Sycip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan Law Offices will be the resource speakers in this half-day seminar to be held on Sept. 26 (Thursday, 1:00-5:00 PM) at the Tower Club, Philamllife Tower, Paseo de Roxas, Makati City.