MANILA, Philippines – A “xerox copy’ of Malacanang and the House of Representatives’ version was how Senator Joker Arroyo described next year’s P2 trillion national budget passed by the Senate Wednesday night.
“If you look at the budget as prepared by Malacanang, and the budget as approved by the House [of Representatives], and the budget we in the Senate [has] approved, all these three look alike as if they are xerox copies,” said Arroyo, who voted against its passage.
“Aren’t we expected to scrutinize and if need be, make changes thereon?” he asked.
The Senate, voting 14-1, approved on third and final reading the 2013 budget Wednesday evening.
Arroyo said Congress has lost the power of the purse or the constitutional mandate to allocate the funds of the government to President Benigno Aquino, who he said has “greater powers” in next year’s budget compared to the previous year.
“Every President seeks to enlarge his powers in the budget. And over the years, every Congress feebly tries to rescind this executive encroachment but the legislature always loses out,” said the senator.
“For the 2013 budget, the President has more powers than in the 2012 budget. Congress has hopelessly lost its power of the purse,” he added.
The budget was also easily approved in just a short span of time compared to the controversial sin tax reform bill that was the subject of heated debates in plenary session, Arroyo said.
“It took the Senate only five days of passive plenary deliberations, from sponsorship to period of amendments. In contrast, we spent two weeks of heated debates on the P40 billion sin tax measure,” he said.
Arroyo said that senators and congressmen were fearful of going against the budget set by Malacanang because “the President’s power to impound appropriations rightfully due legislators remains intact.”
Senator Edgardo Angara, in an interview after the budget was passed, said “there’s a grain of truth to what [Arroyo] is saying.”
“He can be right sometimes,” Angara said. “He’s [like] the boy who can say that the Emperor has no clothes,” he said referring to the children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”