MANILA -- Two ranking House leaders on Monday called on senators to just let President Rodrigo Duterte exercise his veto power over the more or less PHP80 billion worth of realignments that are at the heart of the impasse between the House of Representatives and the Senate, so as not to stall any further the President's vital socio-economic programs.
House committee on appropriations chair Rolando Andaya Jr. and Senior Deputy Minority Leader Anthony Bravo made the call after the House finally finished printing the proposed PHP3.757-trillion budget for 2019.
The two chambers of Congress have been at loggerheads over the supposed realignments made by both houses in the approved bicameral conference committee report on this year's proposed budget.
The House alleged that the Senate made PHP75 billion worth of realignments, while senators alleged that their colleagues in the House made PHP79 billion in realignments.
In a press briefing, Andaya stressed that the alleged realignments made by the House were actually an itemization of the lump sums that were approved in the bicam.
He likewise pointed out that the Senate also undertook the same itemization process on their share of the lump sum allocations.
However, he said in the point of view of numbers, the PHP79 billion is only about 3 percent of the total budget and should not be used by the Senate to sacrifice the whole budget.
The lawmaker said since the House and the Senate could not agree on the legality of the realignments, then the most prudent course of action is to let President Duterte exercise his veto power over the contested amounts.
Ang pinagtatalunan natin ay 3 percent lang ng budget, they maintain may mali and we maintain naman na walang mali. Kung mali 'di i-veto na lang, i-veto ng Presidente (What we are contesting comprises only 3 percent of the budget which they maintain is wrong and that which we maintain is not. If it is wrong, then let the President veto it)," the Camarines Sur lawmaker said.
Bakit mo isa-sacrifice 'yung buong budget para sa ganung napakaliit na halaga? (Why would you sacrifice the whole budget because of such a small amount), Andaya added.
The former House majority leader said it is within the powers of the executive to review the budget that was passed by Congress.
Bakit natin tatanggalan ng karapatan ang ating Presidente at iantala ang kanyang economic program dahil sa 3 porsiyento lamang (Why would we take away from the President his veto powers and stall his economic program just because of the mere 3 percent)? Let him (Duterte) veto it if it needs to be vetoed, he said.
Huwag iimplementa, puwede rin naman na ganun ang gawin. Pero huwag mo namang i-hostage ang buong budget (Don't implement the realignments, that could be done. But the whole budget should not be held hostage), Andaya stressed.
Ask on his comments over reports that Senate President Vicente Sotto III will allegedly not sign a tinkered budget, the House leader said he hopes that the senators would have a change of heart.
Funding socio-economic programs
Andaya said that what is really at stake is not the legality or illegality of the alleged realignments, but the 97 percent that will fund the vital social and economic programs of the government.
Pinag-uusapan natin dito ung pondo ng kapulisan, mga hospital, scholarships and agriculture among others. Lahat ito, iho-hostage mo for 3 percent of the budget, he said. I am still hopeful that there will be a change of heart."
Rep. Anthony Bravo of the COOP NATCCO partylist echoed Andaya's sentiments.
The lawmaker, who was also part of the bicameral conference committee that harmonized the conflicting House and Senate versions of the proposed 2019 national expenditure program, also maintained that the House did not do anything illegal in the budget and only itemized the lump sums.
So I'm calling now our colleagues, that assuming but not admitting that PHP75 billion or PHP79 billion they are citing can be a questionable one, let the President decide on it, he said in a separate press briefing.
Bravo said it would be better for Congress to submit the General Appropriation Bill to the President and allow the President to exercise his discretion to use his veto power on whether or not that PHP75 billion is indeed not proper to be included in the General Appropriations Act for 2019.
Holding it as a hostage, just 2 percent and you want all people to suffer. This budget is very much needed by this administration. This budget is very needed by our people, he said, as he stressed that the poor would suffer the most if the budget is not passed.
So I'm appealing to the Senate. Let the President exercise his discretion for the veto power, Bravo said.
Source: Philippines News Agency