Signing of 2019 budget to force senators to identify realignments

MANILA The signing of the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) by President Rodrigo Duterte will force senators to identify their respective individual realignments in the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) submitted to MalacaAang, a House leader said Wednesday.

Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., who chairs the House committee on appropriations, said this is due to the fourth budget book that was included in the 2019 GAB, the first time that the expenditure bill will be made up of four volumes of budget books.

Congress has included the fourth book for this year's GAB in the interest of transparency and accountability. The new book, which is part of the budget reforms initiated by the current House leadership, contains the list of itemized allocation for programs and projects under the 2019 GAB, Andaya said.

The House leader said records of the bicameral deliberations on the national budget would show that the fourth book was a condition put forward by the House of Representatives during the initial stage of the bicam and accepted by the Senate contingent.

He said the House leadership moved for the itemization of the budget for specific programs and projects, in compliance with the latest Supreme Court's decision on the pork barrel issue.

The lawmaker noted that the 2013 SC decision specifically instructed lawmakers to adopt a detailed line-item budgeting for the full appreciation of the President.

Line-item budgeting is our response to the people's demand for transparency and accountability in the national budget. Lump-sum funds are more prone to corruption and violate many tenets of transparent expenditure of public funds. It is for this reason that the Supreme Court had declared discretionary lump sum funds unconstitutional, Andaya said.

He said the line-item budgeting approach enables President Duterte to exercise his veto power.

Andaya cited SC Justice Antonio Carpio who, in his concurring opinion on the 2013 decision, said: Congress has the constitutional duty to present to the President a General Appropriations Act (GAA) containing items, instead of lump-sums, stating in detail the specific purpose for each amount of appropriation, precisely to enable the President to exercise his line-item veto power. Otherwise, the President's line-item veto power is negated by Congress in violation of the Constitution.

In spite of this, Andaya said senators have opposed the itemization of the realignments done by the House after the ratification of the proposed 2019 budget, insisting that post-ratification itemization is unconstitutional.

The line-item budgeting approach is adopted in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill. It is printed in the budget books for every taxpayer to see. The senators may oppose such approach, but it is in full compliance with the laws of the land and in light of the Supreme Court decision, he said.

But while the House moved to itemize its realignments, he said senators unilaterally decided on certain budget cuts and realigned them to other items based on request of individual proponents.

Up to now, the Senate has yet to make public a detailed report on the proponents who recommended the individual realignments, Andaya said.

But this would not be for long, he said, since the fourth budget book with the itemized allocation for programs and projects will be out in the open once President Duterte signs the 2019 GAA.

The public release of the new budget law will leave our esteemed senators no choice but to identify their individual realignments which found print in the 2019 GAA. Only by doing so can the public be made fully aware what are the pet programs and projects of the senators they voted into office, Andaya said. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

Related posts