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Duterte won’t meddle in budget row – Palace

Duterte won’t meddle in budget row – Palace
MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte will not interfere in the stalemate between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the P3.7-trillion national budget for this year, spokesman Salvador Panelo said yesterday.

Panelo said Duterte will wait for the transmission of the national budget after the lawmakers settle their differences.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III vowed not to submit the enrolled version of the general appropriations to Malacañang due to alleged last-minute insertions after the ratification of the bicameral report.

“(The President) will not interfere with their intramurals. They will have to settle whatever conflict they have among themselves,” Panelo said.

Panelo also disputed the claim of Sen. Panfilo Lacson who insinuated last Tuesday that he was acting as spokesman for Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who denied that she tinkered with the 2019 budget after Congress already ratified the bicam report.

“I am not speaking for Speaker Arroyo. I was only relaying to the reporters what she told me,” Panelo said.

Panelo immediately called Arroyo to clarify reports quoting Lacson that she directed realignments of about P25 million from the Department of Health budget to her “favored” congressmen.

Because of Congress’ failure to transmit the 2019 budget to Malacañang, the government is now working on a reenacted budget.

Lacson claimed Arroyo ordered the preparation and imposition of the menu list of the DOH appropriations for Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) worth P25 million.

Arroyo reportedly wanted the amount given “in individual allocations for her favored congressmen, including a P2.5 million allocation for the purchase of an ambulance.”?Only P8 million was given to congressmen who did not support Arroyo’s election as speaker, Lacson said.

Illegal insertions
Sotto said he will not sign the enrolled copy of the proposed national budget if there were changes made after it was ratified last Feb. 8.

Sotto said he would rather err on the side of caution than send to the President the copy, which might include the supposed insertions by Arroyo and her favored congressmen.

Sotto said he has received information that some congressmen were trying to push the inclusion of their pet projects in the ratified version.

He said the amendments would likely render the 2019 budget unconstitutional if the matter is brought to the Supreme Court.

Sotto did not rule out the government might have to work on a reenacted budget throughout the year if the supposed insertions were not corrected.

Sotto said he will also try to bring the issue to the attention of the President at a meeting today during the reception and state dinner for Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad at Malacañang.

Sotto said he knows Duterte would rather not meddle with the affairs of the legislative branch as a co-equal branch but stressed the importance of the President being aware of the developments.

Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House committee on appropriations, refuted the claims of Sotto.

“There’s nothing illegal, unconstitutional or surprising about it. It’s all in the framework. What we did was the same thing they (senators) did,” Andaya said.

“Wouldn’t it in fact be good that we are trying to be compliant with the Supreme Court (SC) decision? Because what we’re doing now is we’re trying to identify and itemize the lump sum amounts before the budget reaches Malacañang,” he explained.

Andaya was referring to the SC ruling in 2013 that struck down the pork barrel allocations for senators and congressmen after the justices discovered they were lump sum allocations.

The SC said the Priority Development Assistance Funds for lawmakers should be itemized and downloaded directly to agencies.

“The only difference between us is that the senators are just 24 and we are 292. So, it’s harder for us to identify the projects. That’s the only difference,” Andaya said.

He gave assurance the 2019 budget will be ready before month’s end.

“It will be ready by the end of March, just in time,” Andaya said.

“To hold the budget hostage now is not good. There will be no disruptions and there will be no changes. I don’t see any problems.”

With regard to the P15-billion budget for the DOH for purposes of “giving more meaning to the Universal Health Care Law,” Andaya said the lawmakers are now in the process of making itemized allocations for their districts.

“It’s because there were no details whatsoever. We are groping in the dark as to who were the proponents in the Senate,” he said.

Andaya called on the senators to come up with detailed allocations.

“How will we give meaning to the law where these funds will be going to the hospitals. It behooves both houses to provide an itemized allocation,” Andaya said. “But of course we welcome the criticisms.”

Lacson, however, said itemizing appropriations in the ratified 2019 national budget cannot be justified.

Lacson said no amendment shall be allowed in any bill approved on last reading.

“As if the act of ‘itemizing’ the allocations in the bicam can justify or cure what is explicitly provided under Article VI Sec. 26 (2) of the Constitution, thus: ‘Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed’,” Lacson pointed out.

According to Lacson, some congressmen informed him of the last-ditch effort of the House leadership to make insertions in the ratified national budget, thus delaying its transmission to the Senate President for signature.

Lacson learned from congressmen that the manipulations include a menu list of the DOH appropriations for Health Facilities Enhancement Program worth P25 million in individual allocations for congressmen favored by Arroyo.

The P15-billion budget is comprised and broken down as follows: P8.5 billion for the health department, P4.5 billion for the 292 House members across the country and P2 billion for the 23 senators, minus Alan Peter Cayetano, who had served as foreign affairs secretary. – With Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Duterte won’t meddle in budget row – Palace Duterte won’t meddle in budget row – Palace Reviewed by AsianPolicy.Press on 6:24:00 AM Rating: 5

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