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Senate-realigned P11B infra fund to hurt ‘Build, Build, Build’ — Marcoleta

/ 02:00 PM March 13, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has realigned some P11-billion worth of road right of way projects from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) which would hurt the Duterte administration’s massive “Build, build, build” infrastructure program, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Rodante Marcoleta bared on Wednesday.

The Sagip party-list representative said the P11 billion was part of the P74 billion total realignments made by the Senate after both chambers of Congress ratified the proposed P3.8 trillion 2019 national budget.

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“Kinuha nila ‘yun. So ano’ng mangyayari sa ‘Build, build, build’ kung [nawala] ‘yung pambayad ng right of way?” Marcoleta asked during a media conference, citing the unpaid portion of properties acquired by the government for the construction of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX).

The lawmaker further said that the upper chamber realigned some P3 billion from Technical Education and Skills Development Authority scholarships, P2.5 billion from foreign assistant projects, and P2.5 billion from the national greening program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, “except for a particular province” which he refused to name.

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“Pero hindi nila sinasabi sa inyo ‘yun… Kinuha nila ‘yun ng hindi nalalaman ng House,” Marcoleta added.

The House member, however, clarified that he was not questioning this, but was just informing the public.

“Nakialam po ba kami? Hindi po… Sinasabi lang namin sa inyo,” Marcoleta said, as he maintained that the post-ratification itemization made by the House was regular and legal, contrary to the claim of some senators.

READ: Sotto: Modified budget bill contains P96B House realignments

‘Post-ratification changes legal’

“This is purely legal, regular and constitutional because this is still part of the authorization process as mandated to us by the Constitution,” he added, referring to the “re-prioritization” the House made.

Marcoleta maintained that the national spending bill should be itemized as long as they do not go beyond the agreed total amount to be itemized during the bicameral conference committee phase. He added that only post-enactment amendments in the budget could be considered illegal, and not post-ratification changes.

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READ: House leader: Lump sum in ratified budget ‘unconstitutional’

“I-itemize po natin kung saan dapat gamitin para hindi mapunta kung saan saan. Bakit kapag kami ang nagre-realign, puro bato ang ginagawa sa amin? Diskarte ng House kung papano namin ire-reprioritize, trabaho namin ‘yun,” he explained.

Asked why they did not itemize the lump-sum funds before they ratified the expenditure plan, Marcoleta said: “Marami nga kami.”

“How can you compare 293 representatives against 23 [senators]? You tell me. It’s something they should understand also,” he added.

House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro backed this, saying post-ratification itemization has been done in previous Congresses as it was part of the period of legislation.

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s argument citing Article 6, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution was not applicable to the General Appropriations Bill (GAB), according to Castro.

The provision states that “upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed, and the vote thereon shall be taken immediately thereafter, and the yeas and nays entered in the Journal.”

“Senator Lacson is comparing the passage of an ordinary bill with the general appropriation… Ang importante dito is the period of legislation, and implementation,” the Capiz congressman said, adding that amendments are allowed during the period of legislation which extends up to the time before the President signs the GAB.

Castro said Senator Loren Legarda, the Senate finance committee chair, should meet House appropriations panel chair Rolando Andaya Jr. “at the soonest possible time” to finally agree on the issue.

The two chambers of Congress have yet to arrive at a consensus as senators have been pushing to retain the ratified version of the spending bill with lump-sum appropriations, while the House contingent wants the budget that they itemized after it was ratified by both chambers. /je

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