The chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday vowed to push for “full transparency” in the bicameral conference deliberations on the 2019 national budget.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., the panel’s chairman, made the statement as select senators and congressmen met Tuesday to come up with the final version of this year’s proposed P3.757-trillion national budget.
“We are working overtime to pass the 2019 national budget. Now that it has entered the Bicameral Conference phase, it is now on its last mile of preparation,” Andaya said.
“This refutes the repeated lies peddled that the House wants a reenacted budget when all our actions prove that we want a new one,” said Andaya, who then led the House committee on rules that probed the alleged irregularities in the budget preparation involving Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
In other developments:
• Senator Loren Legarda, head of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the Senate was ready for a bicameral meeting and was just waiting for the House for a schedule to reconcile the differences in their respective versions of the 2019 national budget.
Legarda said the 2019 national budget would continue to give priority to education, health care, livelihood and employment and social services.
“We hope to be able to immediately reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions so that we may approve the budget within the remaining session days that we have,” Legarda said.
• In just three minutes, the Senate unanimously adopted a new version of a bill that will abolish the graft-tainted Road Board, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Tuesday.
The approved measure, he said, will be sent to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature, and hopefully by next week or at the latest by the first week of February.
The new version of House Bill 7436 was approved by the House on third and final reading and was later transmitted to the Senate.
Andaya led the House contingent for the bicameral conference committee meeting on the budget measure along with Reps. Maria Carmen Zamora of Compostella Valley, Rodante Marcoleta of SAGIP party-list, Edcel Lagman of Albay, Federico Sandoval II of Malabon, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan, Yedda Marie-Romualdez of Leyte, Corazon Nuñez-Malanyaon of Davao Oriental, Arthur Yap of Bohol, Jesus Romualdo of Camiguin and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez of Quezon.
As to the proposed amendments of the Senate to the budget bill, Andaya said, “we are confident in finding a common ground that will benefit the people and fund the progress that they deserve. No healthy difference on policy questions is irreconcilable.
“I have made my position clear. The House contingent will push for full transparency in the bicameral conference deliberations. We know that our senators want the same.”
Aside from the P75 billion in insertions, Diokno is also being accused of turning his department into a “super-bidding body” that bid out P198 billion worth of projects last year for 20 different government agencies.
Diokno was also accused that his department had become some sort of a one-stop mega-mall of government projects for contractors.
This developed as Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte doubted Andaya’s call for transparency in the budget deliberations of the budget measure.
Villafuerte cited the primacy for his fellow Bicolano legislator to first explain”•and withdraw”•the almost P1.9 billion worth of “surreptitiously realigned” public works funds to his congressional district before babbling on about his hoped-for legacy of transparency and accountability.
“Andaya’s blabbering about transparency and accountability as his hoped-for legacy in the bicam negotiations on the GAA bill is just empty rhetoric until he puts his money where his mouth is by explaining the almost P1.9 billion in pork”•as discovered last year by Senator Panfilo Lacson, which ended up in his turf, namely the first district of CamSur,ãƒ» Villafuerte said.
“He must come to the negotiating table with clean hands,” he said of his fellow CamSur representative.
“He has to explain his P1.9-billion pork, and then move for its deletion from the proposed GAA bill in the bicam discussions, to give him the moral high ground to yak about wanting transparency and accountability to be his legacy as House appropriations committee chairman and head of the House contingent in the bicam.”