SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
House Deputy Minority Leader Anthony Bravo, in a press briefing Friday, criticized the Senate contingent to the Bicameral conference on the 2019 national budget for its refusal to submit the list of the Senate's individual amendments to the national budget despite insistence of the House conferees.
Bravo said the House conferees, led by Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., made public in a bicameral session that the Senate inserted P190 billion in amendments to the 2019 budget.
“What they submitted late in the day, though, was a list of lump-sum amendments made by the Senate,” said Bravo.
He said that the P190 billion Senate insertions would have been kept secret again had the House conferees agreed to the Senators’ proposal not to allow media coverage of the bicameral sessions.
Bravo said the House conferees pushed for media coverage of the bicameral sessions precisely to avoid suspicions of horse-trading or secret insertions.
“Matagal na nilang itinatago ito sa taumbayan. Our position was very clear. Every amendment to the national budget must be known to the public and approved by the senators and congressmen. No media coverage, no bicam,” said Bravo during a press briefing.
Bravo said Senator Panfilo “Ping”” Lacson, a Senate conferee, did not attend the first bicameral session for still unclear reasons. “Nagpakita na lang siya sa sumunod na session nang malaman na may media coverage pala ang bicam,” added Bravo, who called the Senator Lacson as his good friend.
Bravo said Senator Loren Legarda and Lacson are in agreement that these congressional allocations are not pork.
“Now, we are confused with Senator Lacson’s sudden turn-around. Nagbabangong-puri lang ba siya dahil nabuko na mayroon din siyang ipinasok na secret amendments sa national budget? Napilitan lang siyang aminin ito dahil binabanatan na siya sa media,” said Bravo.
During the bicameral sessions, Bravo said Senator Lacson repeatedly told congressmen that he respects the solons' desire to bring projects to their respective congressional districts.
“Sabi niya, naiintidihan niya na kailangan ng mga congressional districts ang mga proyekto,” said Bravo.
“Kung sa House galing ang amendments, pork ang tawag ni Senator Lacson. Kung sa Senate galing ang amendments, institutional amendments naman ang tawag niya,” he added.
Bravo cited Article 6, Section 29 of the Constitution that “no money shall be paid out of the treasury except in pursuance of appropriation made by law.”
He also cited Supreme Court and Philiconsa vs the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) JR Number 113105 which declares that “the power of the purse belongs to Congress subject to veto power of the President.
The President may propose the budget, but still the final say on the matter of appropriation is lodged in Congress, said Bravo.
“This is clear, meaning, any budget that is proposed by the executive is not casting the stone. It is subject to scrutiny by Congress, it is subject to realignment, it is subject to decrease in terms of funding and if necessary overhauling by the Congress,” he said.
From the very start, Bravo said the House conferees have been badgering the senators to submit to the bicameral conference and to the public their list of amendments to the 2019 budget.
“Para malaman ng publiko na wala tayong itinatago na pork sa bicam,” he said.
Bravo said the Senators cancelled a scheduled bicameral session when pressed for the list of their individual amendments.
“As if on cue, Senate President Tito Sotto threatened to pull out of the session and made public his threat to push for a reenacted budget,” said Bravo.
He said the House conferees did not budge, with Andaya saying that the House does not agree to a reenacted budget. “We want a new budget for 2019.”
He said the senators kept on saying that their amendments were institutional and not individual amendments.
“If that is so, why are they so afraid of itemizing their amendment? Dahil ba makikita ng publiko na isinaksak nila ang bilyong-pisong amendments nila sa mga program at proyekto na nakapaloob sa mga congressional districts,” he said.
Bravo reiterated the clear position of the House that they do not want a reenacted budget.
“We want a new budget passed before our legislative break. We want a new budget -one that is transparent, with clear accountability, and responsive to the needs of the people,” he added.
Bravo said the way he feels it during the discussion last Wednesday, majority of the conferees are for a new General Appropriations Act (GAA) to be passed.
“I just don’t know if they changed their position. But as far as last Wednesday is concerned, I believe they are not for a reenacted budget,” Bravo said. | Eddie Galvez