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Lacson warns of delay in 2020 budget OK

/ 04:40 AM November 10, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The bicameral conference committee discussions will be prolonged and the final approval of the P4.1-trillion 2020 budget could be delayed if the House of Representatives insists on realigning P100 billion worth of funds, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Lacson said the Senate would not want to delay the budget, but he would not let the planned P100 billion in realignments pass unnoticed.

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“P100 billion is a big amount, it would distort the entire budget because the agency from which you will take the funds would be affected. How about their priority projects that they studied before they had a budget call, and which was included in the [national expenditure program]?” Lacson said in a phone patch interview with reporters.

He said he doubted if the House consulted the affected agencies about the amounts to be taken from them.

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The House should have at least included these realignments in the general appropriations bill it approved so that the Senate could have scrutinized these when the measure was transmitted to the chamber, Lacson said.

‘Malevolent and sneaky’

But for the House to make these changes in the bicameral conference, after it had approved the budget on third and final reading, was “malevolent and sneaky,” he said.

“It is also sneaky because why do they need to hide from the plenary the submission of individual amendments and to not submit these to the Senate as well?” Lacson added.

The Constitution states that there should be no amendments to the bill after approval on final reading, he pointed out.

The bicameral conference can also reconcile conflicting provisions in the two versions of the budget bill.  But if something was not in any of the versions of the bill, it seems wrong to entertain it, Lacson said.

This was why there could be debates during the bicameral conference, he added.

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BCC will be prolonged

“We are committed not to delay [the budget]. But the problem is there could be delay if they insist en toto on the P100 billion. The BCC [bicameral conference committee] will be prolonged if they insist on that,” Lacson said.

He also noted that Malacañang has been vocal about the President vetoing funding allocations that are not part of the administration’s priority programs. The Senate could also once again ask Mr. Duterte to veto the House changes it disagreed with, Lacson said.

In the delayed 2019 budget, President Duterte vetoed P95 billion worth of projects.

“I believe PRRD has a track record that if he sees the budget will go to waste, that the submission was not proper, he vetoes it. That is where I will pin my hopes on,” he said.

Lacson insisted that the bicameral conference should be made public.

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