Recycled budget for 2015 feared
MANILA, Philippines–The specter of a reenacted 2015 national budget looms after Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco has threatened to keep invoking the lack of a quorum in House plenary debates on next year’s General Appropriations Act.
Tiangco, secretary general of the oppositionist United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said he would question the lack of a quorum for every day that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad fails to provide the House of Representatives with a complete list of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds released to legislators, as Abad had promised.
Not a threat
“I am not threatening it, I will do it. If there’s a quorum, I will accept the fact that they [majority] can strong arm us,” Tiangco said in Filipino on his Twitter account.
He denied holding the budget process hostage.
“Am I the one holding it hostage or is it Secretary Abad? Who made that promise [to provide the DAP list] on the record? That is the point,” Tiangco told reporters Thursday.
A quorum is required for every session day, but it has been the practice in the House to suspend proceedings instead of adjourning them, thus, the session day is considered a continuation of the previous day when there was a quorum.
Since the plenary debates on the budget began Monday—when a quorum was achieved—the House leadership has been suspending the session at the end of each day, thus, still reflecting the attendance on Day 1, though in reality only a few lawmakers were present on subsequent days.
‘That’s Tiangco’s problem’
In the face of Tiangco’s threat, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. called a meeting of Liberal Party (LP) leaders on Thursday morning to appeal for members to attend the budget deliberations and prevent a reenacted budget, or the rolling over of this year’s budget to next year.
Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said Tiangco should not take out his “beef” with Abad and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on the 2015 budget.
“That is his problem, but why should the entire budget suffer because of it?” Gonzalez told reporters in his office.
Gonzales nearly figured in an altercation with Tiangco on Wednesday night after House leaders suspended proceedings without acting on Tiangco’s motion to adjourn the proceedings, which would have required a roll call in the next session.
Confrontation in House
The confrontation was captured by TV cameras which caught Tiangco blocking Gonzales’ way and lightly pushing him until Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal of the LP wedged himself between them.
Gonzales said Tiangco had basically “accomplished” what he had set out to do that day—which was to put a stop to the proceedings, but not in the way that he had wanted.
“He should take pity on the House secretariat,” Gonzales said. An adjournment would have required the House secretariat to prepare the journal for the past three days of budget deliberations on the following day.
Gonzales noted that Belmonte himself had turned over to Tiangco a DAP list submitted by Abad at the start of the budget debates on Monday morning. But in the evening, Tiangco returned to question what he described as a “sanitized” list with missing details and items.
Gonzales said Tiangco should not block the budget deliberations just to get back at the executive branch.
“Which is why I’m saying be careful what you wish for because it might happen,” Gonzales said.
“The process of delaying approval of the budget will eventually result in a reenacted budget, and we’re saying that this is an election budget,” he said.
He said a reenacted budget tended to favor the President. “If I were the President, [then I would] enjoy.”
“As it is, following the Supreme Court decision [on the DAP], the entire budget is a reenacted budget. So in 2014, if you had P1 billion to build a bridge in a municipality that’s been completed, it becomes savings, you can use that for similar road projects,” Gonzales said.
But in a phone interview, Tiangco said a reenacted budget was a natural consequence of a lack of quorum in the budget deliberations.
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