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Solons summon Diokno over budget insertions

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Monday, December 10th, 2018

FILE PHOTO: Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno

MANILA, Philippines – House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez has asked Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to attend the ‘question hour’ at the House of Representatives (HOR) to shed light on the issue of ‘pork barrel’ or budget insertions in the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act.

In a resolution approved by the plenary, Suarez said they have invited Diokno to HOR on Tuesday (December 11) so that all congressmen would have the chance to ask questions regarding the 2019 national budget.

“Issues regarding budget insertions arise, thereby raising the possibility of having a re-enacted budget for 2019,” Suarez said.

Questions have popped up when Senator Panfilo Lacson disclosed that at least P2.4B was allegedly added to the budget for the second district of Pampanga that is under House Speaker Gloria Arroyo.

Suarez confirmed that the HOR has already sent an invitation to Diokno. They asked the Budget Secretary to bring all necessary documents including disbursement receipts, releasing and office memos for government agencies to aide the inquiry.

Diokno, however, is yet to confirm his attendance.

The ‘question hour’ is in accordance with Section 22, Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Grace Casin)

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Duterte threatens to veto 2019 national budget if found problematic

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2019

File photo: President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he might veto the P3.757 Trillion national budget for this year.

The Chief Executive made the statement at the PDP-LABAN campaign rally in Bacolod City, Thursday night (April 10), as he explained the importance of having allies in Congress for the administration to easily implement its programs and projects.

Duterte added that his legal team in Malacañang is ready to receive the proposed budget and once he finds out that it could just bring problems to the country, he will be left with no choice but to veto it.

The 2019 General Appropriations Act had been pending in Congress due to controversies surrounding it, such as the alleged insertions in the budget that will benefit several lawmakers.

This has prompted the government to operate on a reenacted budget since January this year.

“Kay hindi magkasundo ang Congress pati Senado eh. And ‘yung mga insertions diyan titingnan ko. Pagka tagilid talaga, I will — I will not to hesitate… I will not hesitate to veto the entire budget [since the House and the Senate are opposing each other. And I have to look into the insertions made. If it turns out to be problematic, I will not hesitate to veto the entire budget].”

The President’s economic managers had earlier said operating on a reenacted budget puts the country’s economy and the government’s infrastructure programs and projects in jeopardy.

The Palace, however, gave the assurance that contingency plans are in place in case the country will run on reenacted budget in the entire year.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo  said, “as to the possible repercussion on the economy of a re-enacted budget, our economic managers have contingency plans prepared, responsive to any conceivable event, and they will correspondingly adjust their targets, which include the execution of programs and projects relating to infrastructure as well as the delivery of basic services to the people.”

The President has until April 25 to either approve or veto the proposed bill before it lapses into law on April 26, even without his signature. – Maris Federez (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, April 5th, 2019

(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)

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Lawmakers insist P160-M allocation per solon in 2019 budget, not pork barrel

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2019

Session Hall of the House of Representatives Complex in Constitution Hills, Quezon City

PASAY CITY, Philippines – The 3.75 trillion 2019 proposed national budget is now in the hands of President Rodrigo Duterte for his final approval before it gets implemented this year.

Despite the controversies, some lawmakers insist there are no pork barrel insertions in it.

According to Coop-NATCCO party-list Representative Anthony Bravo, there is indeed a P160 million allocation per solon in the budget.

Pero dahil gusto nating i-redistribute, equitably but equally ang resources ng gobyerno para umabot po, pantay-pantay sa ating mga kababayan ay nag-peg ng P160 million. I don’t think that is a pork,” Bravo argued.

The lawmaker added that the items under the 2019 budget are already transparent, and may be scrutinized by the public.

On the other hand, Senator Panfilo Lacson had earlier argued that the said pork insertions in the budget may cause corruption of the part of the proponents of the projects.

“All you have to do is to talk to contractors to find out ilang porsyento ang ibinibigay nila doon sa mga proponent ng mga projects,” Lacson said.

Lacson said, however, that his only hope is that the President and his economic managers will thoroughly scrutinize the proposed budget for alleged pork insertions which could then be vetoed by the president himself. – Nel Maribojoc

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