Sotto signs 2019 national budget with strong reservations
MANILA, Philippines – With “strong reservations,” Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III signed on Tuesday the 2019 national budget.
Sotto himself announced the development in a press conference at the Senate with Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Panfilo Lacson.
“I already signed the enrolled copy. It’s now going to be an enrolled bill presented to the President but I placed my reservations on the signature,” the Senate leader said.
In his signature, Sotto said he attached an annotation where he expressed his strong reservations.
“I affix my signature with strong reservations,” he said, reading a copy of the attachment.
“My attestation is limited only to those items approved by the bicameral conference committee and ratified both Houses of Congress.”
But Sotto maintained that the P75 billion worth of programs or projects under the Local Infrastructure Program of the Department of Public Works and Highways funded through “internal realignments” were unconstitutional.
He also attached the list of the P95 billion worth of programs which included the said P75 billion worth of realignments.
“The President may wish to consider disapproving these unconstitutional realignments, pursuant to his constitutional power to veto particular items in the General Appropriations Bill,” Sotto said.
Sotto said the budget has been sent already to President Rodrigo Duterte for signature.
The transmittal of the budget bill to the President had been stalled due to alleged realignments made by the House of Representatives even after the ratification of the measure by both chambers last February 8.
The House of Representatives later transmitted to the Senate the modified version of the budget bill, which the Senate refused to sign, saying the lower chamber’s amendments were unconstitutional.
But the House countered the Senate’s allegation and blamed the latter for alleged unconstitutional lump sum appropriations in the budget.
Because of the Senate’s refusal to sign the modified measure, the lower chamber decided to recall the same.
On Monday, a three-man team from both the Senate and the House met to iron out their differences.
Lacson said the compromise solution was Drilon’s idea, which the latter confirmed.
“The compromise solution that we have proposed is proof that while we belong to different political persuasions in the Senate, pagdating po sa kapakanan ng ating bayan sama-sama kaming nagkakaisa for the interest of the country,” Drilon said.
He said he first raised the proposal to Lacson over a week ago in order to break the deadlock.
“Because if the deadlock remains, you have about 20 percent of the gross domestic product coming from the public sector which could not be realized because it depends on the budget,” Drilon further said.
The Minority Leader pointed out that Sotto’s signature in the budget measure does not mean that the Senate agreed with the constitutional amendments of the House.
Zubiri said Sotto signed the national budget because he saw the “urgency” of passing it.
“We believe that it’s up to the President hopefully to be able to look at this and veto it if necessary if he feels it’s unconstitutional as we feel it,” the Majority Leader said. / gsg
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