‘Common practice’: House body OKs P4T 2020 budget behind closed doors
MANILA, Philippines—The House appropriations committee on Monday (Sept. 9) approved behind closed doors a committee report endorsing the approval of the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 after just two weeks of deliberations.
The approval of House Bill No. 4228 or the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which becomes the General Appropriations Act or the national budget once enacted into law, was made during an executive session of the committee. Only committee members were allowed in the closed door meeting.
In an interview after the closed door meeting, House committee on appropriations chair and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab said the approval was unanimous. He also said convening into an executive session has been the “practice” even during past Congresses.
“Actually, nothing is being kept secret but that has been the practice ever since,” Ungab said.
A motion to make budget briefings held previously count as hearings and set the final schedule for the budget approval was approved in the executive session, according to Ungab.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said the budget bill was unchanged from the version submitted by Malacanang on Aug. 20. Different agencies gave briefings to House members from Aug. 22 to Sept. 6.
Next stop for the budget bill is plenary session where debates and proposed amendments could take place starting Sept. 10 until Sept. 20. The House wants to pass the budget by Oct. 4, apparently in a rush to avoid a repeat of the delay in the 2019 budget which cost the Philippine economy its lowest growth rate in years.
Legislators failed to pass the 2019 budget on time because of bickering over kickbacks expected from pork barrel funds.
Ungab said the budget briefings had been finished in “record time.”
But he repeated an earlier statement that it would be difficult the grant the requests of at least 60 congressmen for increased budgets for their districts, which are commonly known as sources of kickbacks.
“When you entertain one, you entertain everyone,” Ungab said. “That’s not possible. So that’s the problem, the amount (being requested by the 60 congressmen) is really big so it’s not doable,” he added.
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