House to ensure ‘legal, transparent, accountable’ 2019 budget – Castro
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives’ contingent to last-ditch talks to break the budget deadlock has to “ensure” that the spending bill would “not only be constitutional and legal” but also “pass the test of transparency and accountability,” House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro said Monday.
In a statement, the Capiz congressman said those were the instructions of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the three veteran lawyer-congressmen appointed to meet with senators earlier in the day.
He was referring to House appropriations committee chair and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, and San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora.
Castro vouched for the ability of his colleagues to strike a deal in the meeting. He pointed out that Andaya was a secretary of the Department of Budget and Management, Zamora was a bar top-notcher, while Lagman is a human rights lawyer who had also served as chair of the appropriations panel.
In an earlier interview in the Senate, Andaya said he hoped that they could finally send this year’s budget bill to President Rodrigo Duterte before March 29, Friday.
Meanwhile, Arroyo refused to set a deadline on the Senate and to “pass judgment” on the senators to finally pass the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) which was ratified by both chambers of Congress on Feb. 8.
The passage of the budget has been stalled after the Senate refused to sign it, accusing the lower chamber of introducing post-ratification amendments, which the latter justified as “itemization.”
While the disagreeing camps have agreed to meet this day, it remains to be seen if the House would agree with the Senate’s position, and abandon their stand on itemizing portions of the GAB even after it was already ratified.
The country would continue to operate under the 2018 reenacted budget until Congress ends the budget impasse and sends the expenditure plan to the President’s table. /cbb
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