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‘Insertions,’ brewing conflict delay House plenary debates on 2019 budget

/ 08:06 PM September 17, 2018
Plenary Hall of the House of Representatives

The Plenary Hall of the House of Representatives. (File photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

The slated plenary debates of the House of Representatives on the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 budget were stalled on Monday due to a conflict among several lawmakers and claims of P55-billion worth of “insertions” in the budget of some lawmakers.

The House plenary was supposed to tackle the proposed 2019 budget at 10:00 a.m. on Monday. But the morning session was suspended, apparently due to a brewing conflict primarily between Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, chair of the House appropriations panel, and House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr.

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In the morning, several lawmakers floated the idea that Nograles would be kicked out as the chair of the powerful committee.

But Nograles, as well as Andaya, denied these.

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The lower chamber adjourned at 4:45 p.m. and the plenary debates did not push through.

Shouting match

A shouting match between local rivals, Andaya and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., happened during a meeting before the scheduled plenary debates.

Villafuerte has accused Andaya of bullying him and challenging him to a fist fight – allegations that the latter denied.

READ: Villafuerte accuses Andaya of ‘bullying’ during meeting at House
‘P55-billion insertions’

Andaya said complaints from various House members about alleged “insertions” in their 2019 budget prompted them “to look into” the proposed budget.

“What we have right now – it is even going on – is that congressmen coming to the office of the Speaker giving stories on activities happening in their districts which they’re not aware of,” Andaya told reporters in a briefing.

“In the spirit of transparency, we also want to know what these complaints are,” he added. “Huwag naman ‘yung basta-basta ipapasa lang.”

Despite investigating the complaints, Andaya made an assurance that the House leadership would not reduce the 2019 proposed budget and that they would just look into the “intention of the exercise.”

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“Paunti-unti nagrereklamo on the matter until we got to the point na we can no longer discount as tsismis,” he said. “There are allocations there that seem to be misplaced. Can we please look at it and not pass it.”

Conflicting statements

Nograles has denied that the committee report he approved in his committee contained P55-billion worth of “inserted” appropriations.

“What’s important is what’s on the floor. Everything else was mere speculation. Wala naman tayong inapprove na ganyan,” he told reporters after emerging from a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers – Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, as well as Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who all refused to comment on the issue.

Nograles also claimed the House leadership had called the meeting earlier because “they wanted me to conduct a committee hearing” to approve a committee report different from the one his panel earlier approved.

“They wanted me to approve another committee report,” Nograles told reporters, referring to a report which he refused to support.

Andaya denied that the leadership called for the meeting, branding it as “unsanctioned.”

He also belied Nograles’ claim that he directed the latter to sign a different committee report on the 2019 budget.

Andaya nonetheless confirmed that the meeting was presided by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The lawmaker also said the committee on rules, which he chairs, has yet to receive a committee report on the 2019 budget, contrary to Nograles’ statement.

“Yung commitee report is still being ironed out. Yun nga, ‘yung sinasabing ayaw niyang [Nograles] pirmahan,” Andaya said.

“He must have been misinformed that the rules committee has not yet endorsed any committee report to the plenary. I think that’s where the problem lies… It still has to go through rules committee,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nograles said the delay in the plenary debates of the proposed 2019 budget was still manageable.

“We can live with those delays. We’re still on track,” he said. /atm

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TAGS: 2019 national budget, Karlo Nograles, Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., Rolando Andaya Jr.
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