MANILA Majority of senators, led by Senate Committee on Finance chairperson Loren Legarda, wanted the budget immediately delivered to President Rodrigo Duterte so that the government would have a new national expenditure program for the remainder of 2019, the House Minority Leader said Wednesday.
In a press briefing, Quezon 3rd District Rep. Danilo Suarez said Legarda has assured him that majority of senators or the so-called silent majority in the Senate disagreed with the position of Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson.
I talked to Senator Loren two days ago, as a matter of fact I'm going to see her tomorrow (Thursday). She assured me na gustung-gusto na niyang pirmahan na niya ito at yan din ang sentiments ng nakakaraming miyembro ng Senado (she really wanted to sign the budget, and that is also the sentiments of most members of the Senate), Suarez said.
Kung puwede nga lang, pipirmahan ko na iyan para matapos na (If it is only possible, I would already sign it to put the issue to rest), he quoted Legarda as saying.
Suarez said Legarda also promised that she would talk to her colleagues, but only to be told later by the senator that Sotto and Lacson are taking a hard-line stance.
In the same briefing, House Deputy Minority Leader and Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin reminded Sotto that his duty to sign the national budget is only ministerial in nature.
Both Houses of Congress have already ratified the national budget so it is only ministerial on their (Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Sotto) part na pirmahan na ang enrolled bill at i-transmit na kay Presidente (to sign the enrolled bill and transmit it to the President), Garbin said.
Garbin said President Duterte is a lawyer and has assured that he would not sign any illegal or unconstitutional provision.
By refusing to accept the validity of the House itemization of the lump sum appropriations, he said Sotto and Lacson are arrogating upon themselves the veto power that is reserved for the President.
If they claim that it is unconstitutional for the House to itemize some of the provisions, the President has this reserve power to veto the line item in the budget which he sees to be unconstitutional, he said.
That is what they are preempting to the detriment of the people, Garbin said.
Meanwhile, House senior Deputy Minority Leader Lito Atienza said it was beyond his comprehension why Lacson, an anti-pork barrel crusader, has been seemingly pushing for a lump sum budget when this was already declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) for being in the nature of pork.
You decide, what kind of budget do you want? Itemized or lump sum? This is seemingly the argument at present. What Lacson wanted is lump sum, while the House wanted itemized, the Buhay party-list lawmaker said in the same press briefing.
It's unfair. When the Senate realigns appropriations, they called it institutional amendment, when Lower House realigns funds for a specific project, pork barrel, Atienza decried.
Earlier, Arroyo said the House of Representatives already did its part in pushing for a constitutional PHP3.757-trillion 2019 national budget and it is up to Sotto if he wants President Duterte to have it signed into law.
Arroyo maintained that the House ratified a legal and valid national budget when it itemized the lump sum funds.
She also clarified that the House did not withdraw the budget documents it submitted to the Senate.
Lacson, on the other hand, claimed, following a conversation with San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, the House of Representatives will withdraw the budget documents it sent to the Senate.
Arroyo tasked Zamora to negotiate with the Senate to break the budget impasse.
She insisted that the House of Representatives would not agree to the Senate's seeming pro-lump sum funds position because the SC ruled against it. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency