House, Senate eye budget deal
Three House leaders will meet with their Senate counterparts next week in a last-ditch attempt at a compromise in the much-delayed enactment of the P3.8-trillion budget for 2019, according to Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay.
“Possibly Monday,” Lagman said in a text message when asked for a date of the meeting.
Lagman, House appropriations committee chair Rolando Andaya Jr. and Rep. Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan City have been tasked by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to negotiate with senators on the budget, which, despite its ratification on Feb. 8, has not been transmitted to Malacañang for the President’s signing.
5 days to complete task
“We are giving ourselves five days to complete this task,” Andaya said on Tuesday.
In a chance interview on Friday, Arroyo said she was leaving it to Andaya, Lagman and House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro to issue statements on the budget fracas.
“They are more accurate in setting the record straight than me,” she said.
No hand in delay
But the former President denied she had a hand in the House leadership’s actions on the budget, which led to the delay.
“No. And Nonoy (Andaya) has been saying that over and over again. The budget is the work of the appropriations committee and the bicameral panel,” Arroyo said.
The delay was caused by disagreements between the two chambers over the post-ratification changes made by the House leadership to the General Appropriations Bill.
No legal infirmities
Senators alleged that the House had unlawfully realigned budgetary items to the districts of favored lawmakers, while House members insisted they only itemized unconstitutional lump-sum appropriations in the spending bill.
Lagman, an opposition leader at the House, had expressed support for the House amendments, stressing that the House version was “free from any constitutional or legal infirmities.”
“The House version did not breach the approved ceilings” in the expenditure requirement of departments and agencies, he added.
To show good faith
Lagman said the House leadership’s withdrawal of its budget version was to show good faith for the holding of “immediate meaningful and sober dialogues to finally resolve the impasse and spare the economy and the people of the detrimental and adverse effects of a prolonged reenacted budget.”
The feud had led to more than a month-long delay in the passage of the budget measure into law.
The government is currently operating on a reenacted 2018 budget, which means that no new projects can be funded this year until the spending bill is passed into law.
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