By Hannah Torregoza
Contrary to 1-Pacman Representative Michael Romero’s claim, it was the House of Representatives (HOR) and not the Senate that caused the delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget, senators said.
Romero earlier claimed that the Senate, particularly Drilon, is “partly to blame” for the delay in the budget of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which was the cause of the logistical lapses that occurred a few days before the event’s opening on Nov. 30.
Senate President Vicente Sotto II recalled the House changed leadership and then submitted to the Senate the General Appropriations Bill nearly two months late.
“Nope, we did not [cause the delay]. The HOR did. They changed leadership then submitted to us the GAB [General Appropriations Bill] on Nov. 24, which is 55 days late of the usual,” Sotto said Monday.
“Then (they) amended the approved bicam (bicameral conference committee) version around February of this year, which the Senate and the President (Rodrigo Duterte) did not allow. He (Romero) must have his facts mixed up,” Sotto said.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon also rejected Romero’s claim as “irresponsible” and “baseless” statements.
“To refresh Mr. Romero’s memory, had it not been for the solution or compromise that I proposed, which enabled Senate President Vicente Sotto to sign and send the 2019 budget to Malacañang, we would not have resolved the 2019 budget impasse and we would have continued on a reenacted budget,” Drilon said.
“Had it not been for my efforts, certain quarters in the administration would have pushed through with recommending to the President the veto of the entire 2019 budget,” the minority leader pointed out.
“Hence, I reject Mr. Romero’s unfounded accusations…[he] should refrain from issuing irresponsible and baseless statements,” he stressed.
Romero’s pronouncements, he also said, are an insult to the Senate. Drilon also reminded him that the “unconstitutional insertions” that House lawmakers attempted to include in the 2019 budget were the cause of the delay in its approval.
“The delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget was caused by unconstitutional insertions blatantly made by the House of Representatives in the budget to the tune of P95.3 billion worth of pork barrel funds,” Drilon said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson also said there is “no way” they caused the delay in the passage of the budget, pointing out that the House inserted P75 billion even after both chambers ratified the bicam report.
“No way. Kasi hindi kami ang cause ng delay. Ang naka-cause ng delay P75-billion na in-insert ng HOR even after we both ratified the bicam report (We didn’t cause the delay. What caused the delay was their attempt to insert P75 billion even after we both ratified the bicam report),” Lacson pointed out.
“So, di kami dapat ituro kasi kami ginawa namin constitutional duty namin. You can just imagine kung pinabayaan namin for the sake of passing the budget measure on time, pinabayaan naming lumusot ang P75B. Lalong malaking debacle (So, they shouldn’t be blaming us because we did our constitutional duty. You can just imagine if we just allowed it to happen for the sake of passing the budget measure on time, and allowed the P75 billion to be approved. It would be a huge debacle),” Lacson added.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara also rejected the insinuation: “I think we all know what really happened in the budget impasse. Some legislators wanted to insert items after the bicameral conference and the Senate did not allow it, which is why the items were vetoed by the President.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto was more blunt: “That’s absurd. Totally wrong.”
READ MORE: SEAG budget delay caused mishaps — Romero