Congress approves budget

P3.75-trillion spending plan awaits Duterte’s signature, line veto

posted February 09, 2019 at 01:50 am
by  Maricel Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta
Congress on Friday night ratified the proposed P3.757 trillion national budget for 2019.

Congress approves budget
APPROVED BUDGET. Senate panel chairperson Senator Loren Legarda and House panel chairman Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. show a copy of the approved national budget for 2019 during the Bicameral Conference Committee Meeting at the AFP Officers Club at Camp Aguinaldo. House panel member Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez is to Andaya’s left. Ver Noveno  
The House of Representatives, in plenary session presided by Deputy Speaker and Negros Occidental Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, unanimously ratified the bicameral conference committee report on this year’s national budget -- a few hours after senators and congressmen agreed on the conflicting provisions of the money measure.

About an hour later, the Senate likewise ratified the budget, voting 15-5. Senator Panfilo Lacson delivered an hour-long speech slamming the alleged pork barrel insertions in the 2019 budget, while Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said these insertions do not involve funds under his province of Iloilo, while also thumbing down the bicam report.

The final version contain some P95 billion realignments for specific agencies, including the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Health (DOH).

The two agencies got the biggest allocations at P46.35 billion and P17.57 billion, respectively, based on a summary of amendments sent out by the office of Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya, Jr., chairman of the House committee on appropriations.

Aside from the two agencies, the bicameral conference committee also made the following realignments: Senate, P1.77-billion; Office of the Vice President, P215-million; Office of the The House of Representatives, in plenary session presided by Deputy Speaker and Negros Occidental Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, unanimously ratified the bicameral conference committee report on this year’s national budget -- a few hours after senators and congressmen agreed on the conflicting provisions of the money measure.

About an hour later, the Senate likewise ratified the budget, voting 15-5. Senator Panfilo Lacson delivered an hour-long speech slamming the alleged pork barrel insertions in the 2019 budget, while Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said these insertions do not involve funds under his province of Iloilo, while also thumbing down the bicam report.

The final version contain some P95 billion realignments for specific agencies, including the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Health (DOH).

The two agencies got the biggest allocations at P46.35 billion and P17.57 billion, respectively, based on a summary of amendments sent out by the office of Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya, Jr., chairman of the House committee on appropriations.

Aside from the two agencies, the bicameral conference committee also made the following realignments: Senate, P1.77-billion; Office of the Vice President, P215-million; Office of the Ombudsman, P1.8 billion; Department of Agriculture, P485.5 million; Department of Education, P2.5 billion; and state universities and colleges, P2.81 billion.

In total, the Senate proposed some P25.4 billion in adjustments while the House introduced P20.65 billion in realignments or a total of P46.35 billion under the DPWH where legislators can identify specific projects.

Andaya confirmed that each congressman will get P160 million in itemized projects.

The bicameral committee also adopted the P800 million proposal from the Senate’s “institutional amendments” intended for the celebration of World Teachers’ Day this October.

Similarly, senators and congressmen carried Andaya’s request the Department of Budget and Management to release some P2.3 billion in internal revenue allotments -- which according to Andaya would not come from the 2019 GAA but from Diokno’s department.

Andaya said the 2019 budget is totally pork-free as he earlier disclosed the P50 billion in “institutional amendments” made by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Andaya earlier proposed the abandonment of the one year cash-based budgeting system as proposed in the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

Andaya, head of the House contingent for the bicameral conference committee meeting on the 2019 national budget, earlier said “there is actually no legal basis for it and from an implementing agency’s standpoint and view, it will actually cause more harm than good.”

Andaya earlier said the Commission on Audit (COA) pointed out in its official statement that cash-based budgeting will cause more problems and will effect a ballooning of accounts payable.

The House approved the budget bill on third and final reading last November.

The House ratified the money measure as it goes on break to make way for the 90-day election campaign period starting Feb. 13 for the May 13 mid-term elections.

The approved budget will be sent to Malacanang for signing by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Following strong objections from Lacson, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon also voted no to the 2019 General Appropriations Act.

Hs also challenged all lawmakers from both Houses of Congress to make all their budget amendments available to public scrutiny,

“Let the people know. We all claim and boldly announce to all and sundry that all of our amendments are institutional and that we do not have pork insertions. Then let us put our money where the mouth is,” he said in a privilege speech.

Drilon likened the budget’s passage, without giving Congress sufficient time to scrutinize it, to signing a blank check. “To give my vote to this budget is like signing a blank check. I simply cannot do that,” he said.

READ: Duterte urged: Line-veto budget of pork, insertions

He also denied reports that senators will get P3 billion in pork allocation, including a province in the Visayas getting more than P3 billion. He called the allegation “grossly unfair.”

“I deny and take exception to that allegation. I would like to make of record that the province referred to is not my province of Iloilo,” he said.

“The unsubstantiated and unfair claims regarding pork barrel allocations make each member of the Senate a suspect,” he added. ”In the spirit of transparency and to erase the cloud of doubt hanging over the Senate, I appeal to the members of this chamber to make a similar disclosure.”

In her opening speech, Senator Loren Legarda, Senate finance committee chairman, described the proposed 2019 budget as pro-poor, pro-development, and pro-Filipino.

READ: House backs Rody’s veto of ‘insertions,’ pork in ‘19 budget

Topics: House of Representatives , Mercedes Alvarez , Senate , Budget , Rolando Andaya , Loren Legarda , Franklin Drilon
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by The Standard. Comments are views by thestandard.ph readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of thestandard.ph. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with The Standard editorial standards, The Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.