Andaya downplays Sotto’s ‘strong reservations’ on 2019 budget bill
MANILA, Philippines — House appropriations committee chair Rolando Andaya Jr. downplayed Wednesday Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s “strong reservations” against the 2019 budget bill, calling it “unwarranted” and having “no legal basis.”
Sotto signed the proposed P3.8 trillion 2019 national budget last March 26. But he asked President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the P75 billion worth of programs under the Local Infrastructure Program of the Department of Public Works and Highways which he said had been “unconstitutionally” realigned by the House after the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) was ratified on February 8.
The Camarines Sur 1st district representative said he wrote to Executive Sec. Salvador Medialdea and Acting Secretary Janet Abuel of the Department of Budget and Management last March 28 to counter Sotto’s arguments. Andaya said Sotto was “ill-advised by his lawyers.”
The lawmaker also pointed out that the Senate President could not “interfere” with the President’s exercise of his veto power by suggesting what items should be vetoed in an enrolled bill.
“It is just a personal request, which the President may or may not take heed,” he added.
There is no such thing as “conditional signing of an enrolled bill,” as the Senate cannot clothe its signature to the GAB with “ambivalence or dissent,” according to Andaya.
Andaya again said the realignments made were “not post-ratification realignments” because these had been authorized by the bicameral conference committee, and “did not exceed the expenditure ceilings of respective departments and agencies” as approved in the bicam report.
“We also maintain that the realignments, which the Senate also made, are fully constitutional as part of the budgetary process, and there is no constitutional provision which has been violated, as none was cited by the Senate President,” he added.
‘House budget realignment institutionalized by bicam report’
Opposition lawmaker Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman also backed Andaya and argued that the practice of post-ratification adjustments was “institutionalized in the Bicameral Report on the GAB itself” which includes the following omnibus motion:
“1. Technical Staff of the House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Finance [is] are authorized to effect corrections of typographical, grammatical and printing errors, as well as the necessary adjustments as a consequence of the amendments. (emphasis supplied).
“2. In case of conflict between the Conference Committee Report and the Printed Copy of the Bill, the latter shall prevail.”
“Consequently, the adjustments or realignments made by the House and the Senate after the ratification of the Bicameral Report are traditionally and legally authorized and do not violate the Constitution,” Lagman, the leader of the opposition Magnificent bloc in the House, said.
The country would continue to operate under the 2018 reenacted budget until the President signs the expenditure plan. Duterte earlier said he would not sign an illegal budget proposal.
The country would continue to operate under the 2018 reenacted budget until the President signs the expenditure plan.
Andaya had also accused the Senate of “unilaterally deciding” to cut down about P83.7 billion of allocation for priority projects, including those under the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan from the spending bill.
While Sotto said that the allegations made by the Lower House were made as a “last-ditch effort to influence the President not to veto their illegal realignment,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson has owned up to most of the cuts in the GAB because of the alleged presence of illegal “pork barrel” or “lump-sum, discretionary funds” primarily used to fund pet projects. /muf
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