Andaya hits Sotto’s ‘strong reservations’ in signing of proposed 2019 budget

Robie de Guzman   •   April 5, 2019   •   2523

(L-R) House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Rolando Andaya, Jr. and Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines – House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Rolando Andaya, Jr. on Thursday slammed Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s “strong reservations” in the signing of the enrolled copy of the proposed 2019 national budget.

Sotto had expressed “strong reservations” when he signed the bill for the 2019 national budget on March 26, maintaining that the P75-billion worth of projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)
local infrastructure program funded through the “internal realignments” were “unconstitutional.” He also expressed hope that President Rodrigo Duterte will consider his request to veto the questionable provisions in the bill, specifically the alleged pork barrel insertions.

In a statement accompanying the letter he sent to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and acting Budget Chief Janet Abuel, Andaya asked Malacañang and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to assail Sotto’s conditional signing of the bill.

Andaya said Sotto’s “unwarranted” move was ill-advised by his lawyer and that there is no such thing as “conditional signing of an enrolled bill.”

“The Senate cannot clothe his signature to the 2019 General Appropriations Bills with ambivalence or dissent,” he said

“The letter he sent to the President expressing his “strong reservations” as annotation in the 2016 National Budget enrolled bill has no legal basis. It is just a personal request, which the President may or may not take heed,” he said.

Andaya also stressed that signing an enrolled copy of the national budget is a legal act so “the imprimatur of the Senate President on the enrolled bill cannot be diminished by his ‘strong reservations,’ which are completely unwarranted.”

Andaya also insisted that the realignments were not made post-ratification as these had been authorized by the bicameral conference committee report. He also emphasized that the realignments “did not exceed” the approved expenditure ceilings of respective departments and agencies.

“For one, the realignments he cited were adjustments authorized by no less than the Bicameral Conference Committee, which was approved and signed by the conferees from both chamber,” Andaya said.

The lawmaker also noted that “the generic term ‘adjustments’ subsumes realignments and allied modifications.”

Andaya also pointed out that the Omnibus Motion had been included in the previous bicameral reports for institutionalized realignments pursuant to the ratified bicameral report.

“We also maintain that the realignments which the Senate also made, are fully constitutional as part of the budgetary process, and there is no constitutional provision which has been violated, as none was cited by the Senate President,” he said.

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has a different interpretation on the issue, stressing that inserting realignments after the budget has been ratified is a different matter.

“It can’t be interpreted that suddenly you insert and realign items in the budget, no,” Drilon said.

He also supports Sotto’s move to express reservations on the 2019 budget bill due to questionable provisions.

“The President has no choice but to veto, because the Senate President said that portion of the bill was not validly passed,” he said.

Sotto, meanwhile, said the budget approval is now up to President Duterte.

“At the end of the day, the Senate exercised its power to scrutinize and challenge what is spurious in the budget. It also proves that the Senate is still and will remain independent. The Senate will let the President decide on the submitted budget,” Sotto said in a statement on Wednesday.

READ: SGMA confident Duterte will sign 2019 budget soon

House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for her part, expressed confidence that the 2019 budget will be signed soon when Duterte has completed the line-item vetoes.

Malacañang earlier assured that they will thoroughly review the bill prior to Duterte’s signing. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

Several senators laud signing of Anti-Terror Act despite oppositions

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators have lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for signing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 despite oppositions coming from different sectors.

“Much credit goes to PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte). With all the pressure coming from different directions against the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill into law, at the end of the day, it is his strong political will that mattered the most,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a statement Friday.

“I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration. If only for this, I take my hat off to the president,” he added.

Lacson, one of the principal authors and sponsor of the measure in the Senate, vowed that he would “exert extra effort in guarding against possible abuse in its implementation, notwithstanding all the safeguards incorporated in this landmark legislation.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also expressed elation over the enactment of the controversial bill.

“I am glad that the president has sifted through the rubble and saw the importance of the law!” he said in a message to reporters.

Senator Francis Tolentino also called the signing of the law as “very timely” and “historic” as the nation needed the measure.

“It just goes to show that a stable peace and order climate should go hand [in hand] with economic rejuvenation post COVID-19,” he added.

The new law repeals the Human Security Act of 2007 and penalizes those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

The measure allows suspected terrorists to be detained for up to 24 days without warrant. It also authorizes the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze the assets and accounts of individuals or groups tagged as terrorists.

Before it was enacted, the bill was met with widespread opposition from different groups who raised concern over its provisions that could be abused by authorities, stifle dissent and spur human rights violations.

But Sotto said the law has enough safeguards to prevent enforcers from abusing their authority.

“It’s full of safeguards but strong against terrorists. Unlike the old law, it was subject to abuse by the terrorists,” Sotto said.

Lacson has repeatedly defended the measure, saying it has enough protection to ensure the rights of those detained.

3 options being considered for Duterte’s SONA, Sotto says

Robie de Guzman   •   July 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Congress is considering three scenarios for President Rodrigo Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

In an online press conference, Sotto said the Senate and the House of Representatives have been discussing options on how to hold the SONA this year amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Option number one involves conducting a traditional SONA in the Batasang Pambansa, with the president and several members of the legislative branch in attendance but without guests.

Option number two is to have the president deliver his speech at the Malacañang while lawmakers convene in Batasang Pambansa.

Option number three will see the President staying in Malacañang while senators and members of the House convene in their respective session halls.

Sotto believes the Palace will prefer that the address be made in Malacañang to ensure the president’s safety amid the threat of coronavirus pandemic.

“Kung ano ang safest sa pangulo ang primary consideration sa pag-decide sa SONA setup,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Sotto backs shift of NCR to modified ECQ, says rushing back to ‘old normal’ will be reckless

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the government to place high-risk areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

In a statement, Sotto expressed his belief that the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to shift some areas into modified ECQ was based on recommendations made by experts who have been on top of the public health crisis.

“I am confident that the recommendations given to him were the result of intelligent discussions that were based on solid data provided by authorities on the ground,” he said.

While he acknowledged that many people, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR), are yearning to return to their jobs and start earning income again, Sotto said it would best “if we all proceed on the side of caution and not throw away the gains of our sacrifices for almost two months.”

“I understand their concerns about losing their work and being unable to provide for the basic needs of their families,” he said.

“Rushing back to the ‘old’ normal, or even just a semblance of it, will be reckless. It will expose majority of our people to the continuing threat of the infectious novel coronavirus and open the gates for a second wave, which could be more vicious and difficult to handle,” he added.

Earlier in the day, the government announced that areas with high-risk for COVID-19 will be placed under modified ECQ starting May 16 until May 31.

These areas include Metro Manila, Laguna and Cebu City.

The entire island of Luzon had been placed under ECQ from March 17 to April 30. Some areas, including Metro Manila, were then placed under an extended community quarantine until May 15.

Under a modified ECQ, 50% of the workforce and operations of selected manufacturing and processing plants will be allowed to resume. Transportation will remain limited for essential goods and services.

Sotto said the downgrade of many areas to a general community quarantine will be a challenge for everyone to be more responsible individuals, and to care for the welfare of the public.

“Ngayon natin makikita ang disiplina at responsibilidad ng bawat isa sa atin,” he said.

“Walang sinuman sa atin ang gustong bumalik ulit sa ECQ. Nakasalalay sa ating lahat ang success o failure ng ating laban kontra COVID-19,” he added.

As of May 11, the Philippines has recorded 11,086 confirmed cases with 1,999 recovered patients and 726 deaths.

Most of these cases were reported in Metro Manila.

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