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Duterte vows not to sign 2019 budget if it’s ‘illegal’

Gov’t may have to operate on a reenacted budget for the rest of the year

President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to scrutinize the P3.8-trillion proposed budget for 2019 once it arrives on his desk, giving assurance that he will veto it if it is “illegal.”

“They’re still debating the budget. I told them, ‘I’ve said my piece. I would not sign anything that would be an illegal document,’” the President said in a speech in Malacañang on Monday night.

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Reenacted budget

Rejection of the proposed 2019 budget means the government will operate on a reenacted 2018 budget for the rest of the year.

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“Everybody will suffer,” the President said.

Running on a reenacted budget will cause a contraction in the gross domestic product (GDP), he said.

“It will decrease our GDP, you know that. There’s no money to spend to move on. It’s an everyday income that we expect. So that’s what we are debating,” the President said.

The President spoke about vetoing the 2019 spending plan after Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Sunday that Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unlawfully funneled nearly P95 billion in infrastructure funds to the districts of her allies in the House after Congress had ratified the final version of the budget bill.

Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chair of the House appropriations committee, countered that the Senate altered some P75 billion worth of government projects in the budget after the spending bill had been ratified by Congress.

Referring to the senators’ allegations that House members had moved P79 billion in the budget after its ratification, Andaya said the House simply itemized the changes it had introduced in the spending bill.

On Monday, he told a news briefing that the senators did their own “itemization” of lump sums after the budget bill had been ratified by Congress.

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Creating pork

The Senate and the House chambers have been trading accusations of tinkering with the spending bill to create pork, delaying the signing of the measure into law.

Lacson has been leading the search for pork in the budget and his fresh disclosures have pushed the enrollment of the spending measure to Malacañang farther away.

On Monday, Coop Natcco Rep. Anthony Bravo accused Lacson of holding the budget hostage in a “personal vendetta” against Arroyo, whom the senator previously accused of persecuting him for exposing the alleged illegal acts of her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Lacson said Bravo’s claim only “reflects his true character.”

“I am a forgiving person. I have forgiven those who have wronged me,” he said.

“This is not about Speaker Arroyo. This is not about any congressman or senator. This is about my personal crusade against the pork barrel system. This is about the national budget, which is the lifeblood of our country,” he said.

Prove it

Lacson dared Andaya to prove his claim that the Senate made alterations to the budget after its congressional ratification.

“If Andaya can provide more details backed by some degree of proof… I will join him in denouncing it, [even] if it involves my own colleagues,” Lacson said in a text message to the Inquirer.

He maintained that his information about Arroyo’s supposed role in unlawfully modifying the budget was supported by a text message sent to several House members by a certain Jo Ann Salamanca, allegedly a member of the Speaker’s staff.

Asked if any of his colleagues indeed made changes in the ratified spending measure, Lacson said: “None that I am aware of, at least as of now.”

Changes made during debates

He said Andaya’s claim was “nothing new” as the P75 billion that the former House majority leader mentioned was actually the amount that former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno included in the proposed budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) without the consent of the department.

Lacson stressed that the changes in the allotment of the amount was made “during the Senate plenary debates.”

On the other hand, he said the P25 billion that Andaya was referring to was actually P23 billion in individual amendments that some of his fellow senators had introduced, which Lacson had earlier identified as pork.

Said Lascon: “Those amendments were incorporated in the Senate version, not postbicam as Andaya is now saying.”

Recall ratification

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon suggested that if the House would insist on amendments, the best action to take would be to recall Congress’ ratification of the budget bill and return the measure to the conference committee.

Drilon said it was the “only remedy” to the situation.

Congress, he said, had recalled the ratification of bills in the past to introduce new changes. —WITH REPORTS FROM DJ YAP AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA

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TAGS: 2019 national budget, budget insertions, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Panfilo Lacson, pork insertions, Rodrigo Duterte
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