Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Wednesday he will push for a reenacted budget for 2019 because he was “sick and tired of the allegations” in the proposed P3.7-trillion national budget.
Sotto said he will ask Senator Loren Legarda, the head of the Senate’s finance committee, to withdraw the Senate version of the General Appropriations Bill.
“Considering the numerous allegations being leveled at the 2019 budget both from the HOR [House of Representatives] and the Senate, I will propose to Senator Loren, as chair of the finance committee, to withdraw the Senate GAB version and go for a reenacted budget,” Sotto told reporters.
“I hope that will erase all doubts and allegations of pork and other so-called insertions in the budget. I’m sick and tired of the allegations.”
In other developments:
• Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Wednesday said the Senate should also be transparent in its “institutional amendments” now that the senators had admitted having “amended” or changed some parts of the proposed 2019 national budget “upon the request” of certain agencies.
“Of course we want to have it [2019 General Appropriations Act] come out before it’s too late. I think you have read in the newspapers that the Senate owned up to P200 billion in their [senators’] own amendments. So that has to be sorted out between the House and the Senate,” Arroyo told reporters. With Maricel V. Cruz
• Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House committee on appropriations, expressed optimism that the senators will give in to the demand of the House leadership for a more transparent budget by itemizing the proposed P190-billion funds, which to Andaya were “pork funds.”
A reenacted budget means the government will operate using the general appropriations law of the previous year.
The 1987 Constitution says “If, by the end of any fiscal year, the Congress shall have failed to pass the general appropriations bill for the ensuing fiscal year, the general appropriations law for the preceding fiscal year shall be deemed reenacted and shall remain in force and effect until the general appropriations bill is passed by the Congress.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a member of the bicameral conference committee, said since 2016, when the 17th Congress started, Sotto was one of three senators who confided to him that he was joining him in not availing himself of whatever regular allocation, if offered, to submit as their individual amendments to the Senate version of the budget.
He said the two other senators were Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Francis Pangilinan.
“I know there are others among our colleagues who have since done the same,” Lacson said.
“Anyway, he must be as frustrated as I am as well as most of our like-minded colleagues that pork has not left the annual budget even after the high court ruling outlawing the same in a landmark decision,” Lacson said.
Earlier, Lacson said he would only allow institutional amendments or those requested by agencies and were properly vetted by lawmakers.
The Senate has realigned at least P189 billion in the proposed national budget to other agencies, but most of these were requests from agencies themselves while the members of the House of Representatives realigned P51 billion mostly for their congressional districts.
But Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said a reenacted budget would not be good for job creation and would stall the growth of the economy.
“Build build build will suffer,” he said, referring to the flagship infrastructure program of the government.
But Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, predecessor of Sotto, said he would support the “the Senate leadership as I trust in the good judgment of Senate President Sotto.”
Meanwhile, Legarda said both Houses had finished going through the disagreeing provisions of the GAB and its Senate version.
“We originally intended to go through each provision and corresponding recommendation line-by-line,” she said.
However, upon consultation with the Senate leadership and the Executive Department, Legarda said, she would take into consideration the statement of Sotto.
This will not be the first time the government will have a reenacted budget, if ever. The last three years of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidency, 2008 to 2010, operated on a reenacted budget. With Maricel V. Cruz