THE Senate will continue reviewing the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 even after its ratification by both Houses, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said, Thursday.
Mr. Lacson, who is his chamber’s Finance Committee vice chairman, said Senate leaders have agreed to identify appropriations found questionable in the reconciled version of the 2020 spending plan.
“Nag-usap kami ni SP (Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III) at ni Sen. (Juan Edgardo M.) Angara, ililista namin lahat ‘yan at ipagbibigay alam sa Presidente, through DBM (Department of Budget and Management) (I have spoken with the Senate President and Sen. Angara, and we will identify all these provisions and inform the President via the DBM)“ Mr. Lacson told reporters Thursday.
He said the Senate will attach its reservations to the enrolled bill, just as it did with the 2019 national budget.
He said it remains the decision of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to veto any “questionable” appropriations flagged by the Senate.
“Bahala ang Pangulo mag-discern o mag-analyze pa kung tama ang aming sinasabi o hindi. Kung sa tingin ng Pangulo, ok palusutin, pwede ‘yan kasi siya ang may veto power (It’s up to the President to discern whether our recommendations are valid. If he thinks the allocations should go through, that’s fine because he’s the one with the veto power),” he said.
In the case of the 2019 national budget, Mr. Sotto signed the enrolled bill, but noted his reservations over items that were realigned after the House of Representatives (HoR) and the Senate ratified the spending plan on Feb. 8. This resulted in the partial veto of the initially P3.757-trillion budget, which was reduced by P95.3 billion.
“Ang masama sa ginawa ng HoR, on the eve of the signing of the bicam report saka lang sila magpapadala ng kopya, saka sila magsisingit (What the House did improperly was to delay the distribution of the bicameral report until the eve of the signing, which is when the insertions took place)” Mr. Lacson said.
“Sabi ko wag mag-schedule ng signing sa Wednesday kung di nila papadala yan. Ni-relay nila sa HoR napilitan nagdala ng USB Tuesday evening hoping makakatulugan namin, di namin ma-examine (I was against scheduling a signing for Wednesday if the House doesn’t send a report. The House resorted to bringing a USB flash drive in the hope that we will miss some things),” he said, referring to the flash drive that contained the House amendments.
Mr. Lacson on Wednesday said initial review of the file showed lump sum appropriations worth P16.345 billion, which covers 942 “questionable” projects.
He said the Senate went ahead with the signing of the report and its ratification to avoid another delay in the enactment of the national budget.
“Kaya ako pumayag, kasi in fairness to Sen. Angara tinanong niya ako kahapon kung pwede mag-proceed sa BCC signing kahit may questionable, sabi ko kung magkakaroon ng stalemate magkakaroon na naman ng reenacted budget, di maganda sa economy. (The reason I agreed was out of fairness to Sen. Angara, who asked me yesterday if we can proceed to the bicameral conference committee signing even if I have reservations. I said if we don’t sign there will be a stalemate and another re-enacted budget which will be bad for the economy).”
Mr. Duterte was only able to sign the 2019 national budget on April 15, after a months-long impasse between the House and the DBM over the new budget framework, and later with the Senate due to post-ratification realignments. — Charmaine A. Tadalan