Andaya defends itemized changes in appropriations bill
“[W]hat do senators have to fear in an itemized budget,” Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. asked on Sunday as he sought to turn the tables on the Senate leadership in a still another episode in the long-running congressional row over the 2019 budget bill.
Referring to Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s allegation that House members had moved P79 billion in the 2019 budget, the chair of the House appropriations committee said all the chamber did was to itemize the changes it had made to the still-unsigned spending bill.
House just did its job
Andaya said the House only performed its job of itemizing the changes and to ensure all projects to be funded were identified in the measure.
“The itemization was within the parameters of the bicameral committee report ratified by each chamber. The House did not touch the tens of billions [of pesos] in Senate amendments because, per agreement, it was their duty to do [that],” Andaya said in a statement.
“If the House did not do its duty, then the budget would be vague and opaque. That will only leave people guessing as to where the taxes that fund the budget go,” he added.
The budget bill was ratified by the Senate and the House in February, but still had yet to be signed by President Duterte after a month.
An enrolled copy of the bill has not yet been transmitted to Malacañang because of disagreements over alleged last-minute realignments by the House.
The government is currently operating on a reenacted budget, meaning no new projects can be funded.
Such projects may only be funded once the P3.8-trillion budget for 2019 passes into law.
Duterte has final say
“As far as the House is concerned, we have all the records to substantiate our stand and the legal basis, as well as the established traditions and practices to back us up,” Andaya said.
The former majority leader reminded the senators that the final say on whether to approve the House-proposed amendments rested with President Duterte, who wields veto power.
“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,” Andaya said.
“That is his prerogative. Don’t take that right away from him. If the contested appropriations represent 2 percent of the national budget, then why should it jeopardize the uncontested 98 percent?” he said.
“Why [take] hostage the national budget over unfounded and unreasonable fear?” he said.
“We will print the 2019 GAA (General Appropriations Act) 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,” Andaya said.
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