HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS committee chair Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. of the 1st district of Camarines Sur on Sunday told Senators to let President Rodrigo R. Duterte decide on whether to veto provisions of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) amid alleged “manipulation” of the budget after it was approved by both chambers.
“If the senators really feel that the budget we have ratified is constitutionally infirm and legally flawed, then they can tell the President what specific portions and provisions to veto. And we will respect the presidential veto,” Mr. Andaya said in a statement.
“That is his prerogative. Don’t take that right away from him. If the contested appropriations represent 2% of the national budget, then why should it jeopardize the uncontested 98%? Why hostage the national budget over unfounded and unreasonable fear?”
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III reported that the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office found P79 billion to have been realigned from the ratified P3.757-trillion national budget.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson last week also flagged the delayed transmittal of the budget bill to the Office of the President, which he said was due to manipulation of the Department of Health’s allocations. Both Houses ratified the 2019 GAB on Feb. 8.
Mr. Andaya has said that the House contingent “itemized” lump-sum funds for transparency.
“The proposed 2019 GAA (General Appropriations Act), when ratified by the Senate and the House of Representatives, contained lump-sum funds that need to be further itemized by both Houses. That was the agreement at the conclusion of the meetings of the Bicameral Conference Committee,” he said in the same statement.
“We will print the 2019 GAA so the people would know where the projects and programs that will be implemented this year from health to education to agriculture to infrastructure would go.”
Mr. Andaya last week said the bill will be ready to be transmitted for the signing of the President by March 10 or 11. Senator Sotto, however, still has reservations about signing the enrolled copy.
“I’ll wait for the copy that (the) HoR will send. If they made internal realignments other than what we approved (and) ratified in plenary then I will not sign it,” he told BusinessWorld in a phone message on Sunday. — Charmaine A. Tadalan