President Rodrigo Duterte may sign the long-stalled 2019 national budget before Holy Week, an official said Tuesday.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Palace remained “hopeful” that the President would sign the budget before the Lenten break.
He said the budget was still under the “vetting” process by the Office of the President, the Department of Budget and Management and the members of the executive branch.
He said Duterte scrutinizes the spending bill and also prepares his veto message before signing it.
“Every year the President has his veto message... So ideally, practice, and historically, there is always a veto message of the President when it comes to the budget,” Nograles said.
But he said no one could tell what line or provision in the spending bill the President would veto.
On March 26, the Office of the President received a copy of the 2019 General Appropriations Act as the Congress broke months of budget impasse between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Nograles said the measure would lapse into law once the President left the bill untouched 30 days after he received it.
“What I’m saying is ideally he might sign it because we have a date on when the measure would lapse into law. Of course, there is a due date, so ideally we are after the signing before it lapses into law,” Nograles said.
“If the President fails to act on it, it will lapse into law. That’s why I’m saying he will sign it before Holy Week just to be on the safe side… Because if it does lapse, then whatever both houses of Congress submitted will be approved.”
The Senate previously submitted an enrolled copy of the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget to the Office of the President.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, however, attached a letter explaining his “strong reservations” on the itemized P75 billion worth of public works projects, asking the President to veto the “unconstitutional provision.”
House Committee on Appropriations chairman Rolando Andaya Jr., on the other hand, hit back at the Senate, saying it “sabotaged” the Duterte administration when it unilaterally decided to cut at least P83.7 billion in allocation for the government’s mega-infrastructure program and other priority programs.
As the country has been operating under a reenacted budget since the start of 2019, the Palace said the House of Representatives and the Senate should resolve their “internal problems.”
Nograles, meanwhile, said once the 2019 budget had been signed, the government would catch up with its infrastructure projects.