Senators to meet Duterte amid budget row
MANILA, Philippines— President Rodrigo Duterte has set a meeting with Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III this Tuesday night amid the ongoing impasse on the 2019 proposed national budget.
Sotto said the President himself initiated the meeting.
“Pinatawag na ako ng Presidente mamayang gabi e. Pinatawag na nya ako…Kung ano yung makuha kong research o balita eh dadalhin ko mamaya,” he sad in an interview over DZMM.
In a separate interview, the Senate leader said he would also ask some of his colleagues to join him in the meeting like Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto; Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance; Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri; Senator Panfilo Lacson and the head of Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO).
Sotto earlier confirmed that the Senate has already received the copy of the 2019 budget from the House of Representatives.
The two chambers have traded allegations over the multi-billon peso realignments made in the proposed budget even after they ratified it on February 8.
After the ratification by Congress, the bill should have been sent to Duterte for signature.
But Sotto said the LBRMO is still reviewing the budget bill and he expects it to finish its work within the day.
The Senate leader reiterated that he would not sign the measure if indeed the House realigned P79 million or if any changes had been made even after the ratification of the budget bill.
“Pag nandudun talaga yung sinasabi na ginalaw na mga P79 million afte ratification, ay hindi ko makokonseyang pirmahan yun dahil bukod sa bina-violate yung Constitution, I will be violating also the Revised Penal Code on the issue of falsification of legislative documents,” he said.
Sotto said he is also 100 percent sure that Duterte would not sign an illegal document.
He reiterated the two options available if the Senate and the House fail to agree on the budget bill.
First, he said, Congress may reconsider the approval of the budget bill and return it to the bicameral conference committee.
“Pagdating ng May 20 mag-bicam kami uli. Madugo na yun,” Sotto said.
The second and better option, he said, is to pass a supplemental budget when the new Congress opens in July.
Sotto said a supplemental budget could be passed by August. /jpv
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.