House finally musters budget quorum | Inquirer News
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House finally musters budget quorum

/ 05:46 AM September 23, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–The House majority fended off another attempt by Navotas Rep. and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general Tobias Tiangco to delay passage of the 2015 national budget by successfully prodding most of the 290-member lower house to attend Monday’s session.

Deputy Speaker Pangalian M. Balindong declared a quorum at 3 p.m. Monday with 201 House members answering the roll call in the session hall.

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This effectively stopped the delaying tactics of Tiangco, who had succeeded in suspending the budget hearings several times last week by questioning the lack of a quorum.

Tiangco had resorted to delaying tactics to force Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to fully disclose the names of lawmakers who received roughly P10 billion in Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds from 2011 to 2013.

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“If the sessions proceed with an [in]sufficient quorum, I might take my case to court to force Abad’s full disclosure,” Tiangco earlier said.

Tiangco also said he should not be blamed for any delays in approving the budget because he was just fulfilling his role of ensuring that all government funds were spent wisely.

Right to know

“All legislators have the right to know how the DAP funds they were allegedly given were used by this government. We want to know if our names were just used in the DAP disbursements,” Tiangco said.

He also said that the House leaders had already made extra efforts to convince lawmakers to attend the sessions and avoid an adjournment due to a lack of quorum.

Tiangco said Abad was trying to “hide something” by not being forthright with the DAP data considering that the funds were disbursed between 2011 and 2013.

He said the DAP was the subject of oral arguments in the Supreme Court that required in-depth information and that he had been asking for the DAP statistics since last month.

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The high court declared the DAP, a supposed economic stimulus fund derived from the savings of government agencies, unconstitutional. Malacañang has filed a motion for reconsideration.

The opposition UNA official said that Abad had been “fudging” the DAP data by claiming that even local government units were designated as proponents of DAP projects.

“The longer he delays the release of the DAP data, the bigger the public’s suspicion in Abad’s sincerity,” said Tiangco.

Need to rush

 

“We’re only talking about P10 billion of DAP given to legislators and there was P134 billion more in DAP funds released by Abad that we have not yet checked,” he said.

Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II justified the House leadership’s rush to approve the 2015 P2.6-trillion proposed national budget by Sept. 26 to ensure that this would be approved before the end of the year. The budget sessions started last week.

Gonzales explained that it would take the committee on appropriations at least three weeks to print the House-approved budget, or the entire month of October to complete its duties before it could submit its version to the Senate.

Gonzales said the Senate ideally should have at least one month or the whole of November to approve its budget version in order to have a bicameral committee conference by December.

“We used to spend only seven days in the last five or six Congresses debating the budget. Right now, we’re on our 10th day and we’re far from being done,” said Gonzales, who was wary of having a reenacted budget next year if Congress fails to pass the 2015 budget on time.

Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Malacañang was optimistic the House and Senate would approve the 2015 budget before the end of the year and avoid a reenacted budget, which the government does not want to happen.

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TAGS: Congress, Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Florencio Abad, House, Pangalian M. Balindong, Philippines, quorum, Tobias Tiangco
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