Lawmakers to respect Duterte veto on 2019 budget

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2019   •   3068

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers will respect President Rodrigo Duterte’s exercise of his veto power on the proposed P3.7-trillion 2019 national budget.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said vetoing the entire budget and other proposed bills that are illegal and do not agree with his programs is a president’s prerogative under the Philippine constitution.

“To veto the entire budget is a prerogative and power of the President under the constitution if he is of the opinion that the budget bill is unconstitutional, or does not support his program of government,” Drilon said.

“That is how our system is outlined in the Constitution–the President has the final say,” he said.

Senate Finance Committee chairperson Loren Legarda also echoed Drilon’s statement.

“That’s the president’s prerogative and we will respect whatever his decision will be,” Legarda said.

House leaders also assured to respect the President’s veto power, stressing that this will be for the common good of the country.

“We respect the veto power of the President, and we are convinced that he will exercise such authority for the benefit of the nation and of our people,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rolando Andaya, Jr.

On Thursday, Duterte threatened to veto the entire budget if it turns out problematic.

“The budget has just been submitted. I have to sign it once I return. I am still studying the budget,” he said during a campaign sortie in Bacolod City.

“So ang legal ko magbasa uli. Ngayon pagka talagang tagilid ‘yan, (My legal team is reviewing it. Now, if it’s really problematic)

I will outright veto the entire budget,” he added.

The passage of the proposed spending program was long delayed due to an impasse between lawmakers over the alleged realignments made by the House of Representatives after the bill was ratified by both chambers of Congress.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed strong reservations when he signed the enrolled copy of the bill in late March, maintaining that the P75-billion worth of projects under the local infrastructure program of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) funded through the “internal realignments” were “unconstitutional.”

Andaya, in turn, slammed Sotto’s “unwarranted” move and accused the Senate of snipping down funds for infrastructure projects.

READ: Andaya hits Sotto’s “strong reservations” in signing 2019 budget bill

According to Senator Koko Pimentel, Duterte’s threat to veto the entire budget may be the President’s way of saying to Congress to “get your act together.”

“The country will survive a year without a budget (by operating under the previous year’s budget),” he added.

The government has been operating on a reenacted budget since January after the Congress failed to pass the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act on time.

But Duterte’s economic advisers have warned that a reenacted budget until April could slow down full-year economic growth to as much as 6.3 percent; 4.9 percent to 5.1 percent if the budget is enacted in August and 4.2 percent to 4.9 percent if no new budget is signed this year.

Malacañang earlier said the 2019 budget bill may be signed after the Lenten break as the President is still perusing the document.

READ: Palace: Duterte may sign 2019 national budget after Lenten break

The Palace statement came after it withdrew an earlier advisory on the tentative schedule of the budget’s signing on April 15.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the supposed event was removed from the President’s schedule for next week, stressing that all his schedules are subject to change without prior notice. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

Duterte on reopening the economy: ‘We cannot afford to gamble’

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The country is not yet ready to fully reopen its economy, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Chief Executive said the government is doing the process gradually, otherwise the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections would spike that could lead to a bigger problem.

He said he cannot follow the example of other countries because the Philippines does not have as much resources if the situation gets worse.

“Tayong pobre we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium. Mahirap tayo. Hindi tayo puwedeng sumugal (As a poor country, we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium. We are poor. We cannot afford to gamble),” the President said during his public address on Tuesday evening (July 7).

President Duterte cited situations in the United States and Brazil where despite being powerful and wealthy, are not spared from the impact of the pandemic.

“Although they opened their economy for money to come into the government coffers, there was a spike. They were having a problem of almost a relapse — in the totality of the number,” he added.

Meanwhile, the President expressed doubts that the country has entered the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak.

“Now we do not even know if the number of 34, 178 of active cases is still a part of the first wave or have we arrived at the second wave. I don’t think so. We are still grappling with the first wave,” he argued.

He urged Filipinos to obey strict health protocols and have more patience as the government works to combat the pandemic.

Mga kababayan ko, ako mismo gusto ko nang lumabas. Ayoko nang magpapigil. Kung gusto ko nga makipag-away na ako. Ang problema iyon ang gusto ko, pero ang gusto ko ay hindi makakabuti sa ating lahat,” he said.

(My fellow countrymen, I personally I want to go out. I don’t want to be barred from doing so. I am even ready to fight over this. The problem is, what I want is not good for everyone.)

“We have to be very circumspect in reopening the economy. Dahan-dahan lang (Let’s do it gradually), because if you open the entire Philippines and thousands upon thousands of new cases would happen, then we are in deep s***. Talagang mahirapan tayo (We will seriously struggle),” he said. MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

Economic, infra clusters to hold pre-2020 SONA forum this week

Robie de Guzman   •   July 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte government’s economic development and infrastructure Cabinet clusters are set to present the administration’s plans for recovery and resilience in the face of the coronavirus-induced headwinds this year at the first pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) forum to be held this week.

The Department of Finance (DOF) said that the forum titled, “Regaining Momentum, Accelerating Recovery in a Post COVID-19 World,” will be held virtually on July 8.

Hosted by the Presidential Communications Operations Office and Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the forum will be streamed live on the Facebook pages of the Radio Television Malacañang, and other government agencies.

Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino II said this year’s pre-SONA forum will be different as the audience will be “purely virtual,” due to limitations on mass gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do hope that our citizens will be able to tune in as the country’s top decision makers discuss our path to a quick and strong recovery from this crisis,” he said.

In the forum, the DOF said that top economic and infrastructure officials are also expected to report on the state of the Philippine economy, as well as the government’s ongoing efforts to leverage on its strong fundamentals in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar will present performance updates and priority plans, respectively, on the economic and infrastructure fronts.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua will speak on the Philippine Economic Recovery Program.

“The audience can expect Secretary Dominguez to delve deeper into the challenges we’re facing right now, the accomplishments in the previous year that we can build on, and the legislative proposals that the economic team submitted for Congress to consider,” Lambino said.

Meanwhile, updates on the monetary, external, and financial sectors will be discussed by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno.

Pre-SONA forums are held annually to discuss in greater detail the achievements of the government in the previous year and the priorities of the Cabinet cluster heads in the run-up to the President’s SONA on July 27.

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.

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