A lawmaker on Monday accused Senator Panfilo Lacson of holding the 2019 national budget hostage to put down Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
President Rodrigo Duterte said late Monday he will not sign a budget that is not conforming to the requirements of the Constitution, as the two chambers of Congress grapple with the passage of the already-delayed budget for 2019.
"I will not sign anything that will be an illegal document," he said, warning that the economy will contract if it continues to operate on a reenacted budget.
"Our GDP (gross domestic product) will slide if we are going to reenact the budget. Everybody will suffer, including the law enforcement," he said.
“Senator Panfilo Lacson is holding the budget hostage because of [a] personal vendetta.. [against] our speaker,” said Deputy Minority Leader and Coop-Natco party-list Rep. Anthony Bravo at a news conference.
“He has not said anything good about the speaker from the very start of her leadership…and in fact even before the change of leadership in the House.”
Bravo said Lacson “was seeing ghosts” when he claimed that Arroyo funneled P95 billion in infrastructure funds to the districts of her House allies even after the P3.8-trillion budget was passed by the bicameral conference committee.
“He does not want the speaker to be successful,” Bravo said of Lacson.
Echoing a statement released by House appropriations committee chairman Rolando Andaya over the weekend, Bravo said President Rodrigo Duterte could veto any portion of the national budget he finds objectionable.
Bravo also warned that the stand-off over the budget could stall the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.
Andaya on Monday said senators failed to identify themselves in the itemized list of projects they endorsed for implementation in their amendments to the bicameral conference committee-ratified report on the 2019 general appropriations bill.
Andaya said the Senate only submitted its list of projects on Feb. 11, 2019 or three days after both Houses of Congress ratified this year’s P3.757-trillion national budget on Feb. 8.
Andaya said as agreed during the bicameral conference committee meeting, both the Senate and the House submitted details itemizing projects that would be funded by the lump sum funds after the budget was ratified.
He said this did not violate the Supreme Court ruling on pork barrel, because that referred to changes made to the budget after the President had signed it into law.
At the same time, Andaya said the Senate failed to identify from its submitted list of an estimated P21 billion worth of infrastructure funds the names of senators who requested the projects.
On the contrary, Andaya said House members identified themselves in the detailed-list of infrastructure projects also worth P21 billion.
Andaya said the House submitted four books of the 2019 national budget to the Palace on Monday through the Department of Budget and Management.
He said he hoped the Senate would sign the budget as well.
But Senate President Vicente Sotto III warned again of a reenacted budget, saying that the senators insisted on the version of the bill ratified by the bicameral conference committee with no changes.
“The possibility is really looming now that it would be reenacted if they will not return to the original budget that we passed,” Sotto said.
He said the reenacted budget would not have to be for the entire year, because it could be changed in July with the passage of a supplemental budget for the rest of the year.
Sotto also denied Andaya’s claims that the senators amended the budget after it was passed by the bicameral conference committee.
He also denied that the senators had parked P25 billion in realigned funds with the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Sotto also said that itemizing the lump sum funds should have been done before the budget was ratified by the bicameral conference committee.
Despite the continuing squabbles over the budget, the Palace said it remained hopeful that the country would not be operating under a reenacted budget until August, which would delay key infrastructure projects.
He also said the President would not interfere in the squabble between the House and the Senate. With Nat Mariano
READ: Andaya slams senators over ‘parked pork’