Key minority solons say ‘yes with reservations’ to 2023 budget
MANILA, Philippines — Only three members of the House — all from the Makabayan bloc of the minority — voted against the proposed P5.268 trillion budget for 2023 on its third reading on Wednesday.
Key minority lawmakers — among them Minority Floor Leader Marcelino Libanan, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Camarines Sur Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. — voted in favor of the proposed budget, although with certain conditions or reservations.
Lagman had criticized the General Appropriations Bill on several occasions, particularly its huge confidential and intelligence funds.
But on Wednesday he voted for the bill, giving the following reasons:
“One, a General Appropriations Act is necessary for the operation of the government and the provision of basic social and economic services to our people particularly the disadvantaged, marginalized, and those far behind, however deficient is our budgetary allocations.
“Two, a speedy approval of the [GAB] is critical to avoid a reenactment of the fiscal year 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA) because a reenactment is advantageous to the executive for having two budgets — the redacted 2022 [GAA] and the eventual 2023 [GAA].”
Libanan said that he voted “yes, with reservations,” but he did not explain his vote before the session was adjourned.
Bordado also voted yes, saying: “I am voting yes for the approval of the P5.268 trillion budget for 2023. But Mr. Speaker, I am appealing to the concerned agencies and entities to facilitate the additional budgetary allocation to all the departments identified in the period of interpellation, particularly to the Department of Education for the special children project, the state universities and colleges, for the DSWD for the 4Ps beneficiaries.”
The 4Ps is the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, a poverty reduction strategy that provides grants to extremely poor households.
The Makabayan lawmakers who stood firmly against the proposed budget were Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel, and Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. France Castro.
They said the proposed budget should not be passed for failing to address the country’s problems, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s economic problems.
“This national budget banners the theme ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ when in reality it is an ‘Agenda for Austerity’ as funds for social safety nets and social services were drastically cut,” Brosas said.
“Funding for the poor remains scarce because no fund was allocated for direct aid for the people, and they even deducted funds provided for DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] and DOLE [Department of Labor and Employment] at a time when people need assistance from high prices, economic crisis, the devaluation of the peso, and joblessness,” she added, speaking in Filipino.
Manuel agreed with Brosas, saying: “We sorely lack funds for the COVID-19 response — contrary to the current administration’s previous statements that they would strengthen the monitoring and surveillance capacity of our health system. Health services and other basic social services are deducted because they prioritized paying the loans made by the past administration.
“But they were able to increase funding for lump sum funds, pork in the form of confidential and intelligence funds, and programmed funds for the Notorious Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.”
Earlier, the House approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 4488, with 289 House members voting in favor and with none abstaining.
The House was able to pass the proposed budget on the second and third readings on the same day as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. certified the bill as urgent.
Without the president’s certification, the House would have waited for three more days before approving the bill on third and final reading.
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