By Ben Rosario
With the supposed truce failing to stop senators from criticizing their Congress counterparts, members of the House of Representatives called on Senate members to observe inter-parliamentary courtesy as they start scrutinizing the proposed 2020 General Appropriations Bill recently passed by congressmen.
In separate statements, Reps. Joey Sarte Salceda (PDP-Laban, Albay) and Jesus “Bong” Suntay (PDP-Laban, Quezon City) denied accusations aired by Senate Minority leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson that the Lower House committed violations of the Constitution in passing the P4.1 trillion appropriations measure.
Drilon and Lacson said congressmen failed to observe the constitutional processes in budget approval. They were referring to the decision of the Lower House to introduce amendments notwithstanding the third and final reading approval of the budget measure.
“It was the plenary decision of the House of Representatives to create a Small Committee for institutional and individual amendments to the 2020 General Appropriations Bill,” explained Salceda, vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.
Salceda, who is also chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said this is not the first time a Small Committee was created to introduce amendments.
“This is for facility and for practical purposes. Not all 299 Members of the House of Representatives can sit down together and finalize all the amendments to the bill,” explained the veteran administration lawmaker.
“We appeal to the Senate to observe inter-parliamentary courtesy and allow us to do our work first. Their turn to scrutinize the budget bill will come when we formally transmit to them the printed copy of the 2020 GAB on October 1,” stated Salceda.
Suntay, also a vice chairman of the appropriations panel, said the Lower House can still introduce amendments since the Senate is still deliberating on the budget proposal.
“There is nothing anomalous about the proposed amendments to the GAA while the same has been passed in the House,” said Suntay.
“Deliberaitons on the proposed budget is still ongoing in the Senate, in fact the same has yet to be discussed in the bicameral conference committee where both lower and upper house can still propose changes to the GAA prior to the signing by the president,” the former QC councilor stressed.
Earlier, a truce on public criticism against each other had been arranged by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and his House counterpart, Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Maritn Romualdez.
However, the word war ceasefire failed to stop Lacson from publicly assailing House members who demanded a public apology from him for accusing congressmen of inserting enormous pork barrel funds for their congressional districts.
Lacson has also been proven wrong when he chided the House leadership for appropriating P1.5 billion for each of the 22 deputy speakers of the chamber.
Senior administration Reps. Fredenil Castro (Lakas-CMD, Capiz) and Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan) took turns in assailing for his continued “rumor mongering” over unfounded allegations that huge pork barrel funds were inserted in the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget.
Castro decried Lacson’s claim that he had lobbied for P258 million in financial assistance for the construction of the Dumalag municipal hall in Capiz.
“I am disappointed that the good Senator does not know how to distinguish pork barrel from a letter-request or better still a letter-request from lobbying,” said Castro as he admitted that he sent similar letters to several senators for the sake of his constituents.
Defensor appealed to senators “to read and scrutinize first” the House version of the budget measure before making any comments.