Critics blast haste in passing P4.1-T budget for 2020
MANILA, Philippines — Administration allies had pushed for the quick approval of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on second and third reading to prevent a repeat of the months-long delay that marred the passage of the 2019 budget, but critics blasted the House leadership’s haste in forcing a vote on the spending bill.
“Why are we rushing? What’s the reason for this haste? Why are we sacrificing the scrutiny of the amendments and insertions [in the budget]?” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate told a press briefing hours ahead of the vote on Friday.
“It only opens floodgates to amendments… and insertions that we would not be able to tackle anymore,” he said. “This process is not acceptable in our call for transparency and accountability.”
257-6 vote, no abstentions
The House of Representatives passed the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for 2020 on Friday night, two weeks ahead of its October target after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent.
The 300-strong chamber voted 257-6 with no abstentions to approve the GAB on third and final reading after two weeks of plenary debates, paving the way for its transmittal to the Senate for concurrence and approval.
However, Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin called out the administration for its “knee-jerk political policies” and slammed budget cuts suffered by agencies in the social services sector.
Certified as urgent
The House originally set a target of passing the GAB on Oct. 4, but advanced its timetable by two weeks after the President wrote Congress certifying the budget as an urgent measure.
Under the rules, submission of a presidential certification of the urgency of a measure allows Congress to bypass the three-day notice rule between second reading and third reading approval.
But Zarate said he didn’t understand why the House did not stick to the original schedule, which would have given lawmakers time to study the final copy of the GAB, which would be transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence.
The rush to pass the budget was “part and parcel of patronage system,” he said.
“By any other name, this is still pork that will benefit Malacañang,” Zarate added.
ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said enacting the budget was the “most important role of Congress that should not be railroaded.”
“But now we’re speeding its approval on second and third reading already. We look like robots with no discernment of what we’re passing,” she said.
“We want this to undergo the right process… Otherwise, the people will speculate there’s some hocus pocus going on,” Castro said.
House leaders have stated their intention to ensure no repeat of last year’s budget debacle.
Passage of the 2019 budget was delayed by more than four months, as the House, the Senate and the Cabinet traded accusations over last-minute changes to the bill.
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