Congress: Aquino allies vie for funds committees
MANILA, Philippines – Congress holds the purse strings. How much exactly should the government spend for what purpose goes through the legislative mill.
In the House of Representatives – where, according to the Constitution, all appropriation bills must exclusively originate – it is the committee on appropriations that takes the lead.
Its counterpart in the Senate is the committee on finance.
Both powerful committees are deemed vacant, and allies of President Benigno Aquino III are jockeying to get them.
'A lot of applicants'
In the House, the position was held for 3 years by former Cavite Rep Joseph Emilio Abaya before he became secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications.
Negros Oriental Rep Jocelyn Limcaichong was tapped to finish his job in 2012, but she is not returning to the chamber in the 16th Congress. She ran for governor but lost.
"I have someone in mind. There are other candidates as well," Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr told Rappler on Friday, June 14, without identifying his preferred lawmaker for the post. Belmonte is expected to keep the speakership.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said there are "a lot of applicants," but the frontrunners are Western Samar Rep Mel Sarmiento and Davao City Rep Isidro Ungab, both Liberal Party (LP) members.
In the Senate, the position is currently held by Senator Franklin Drilon, but he is expected to give it up if he is elected Senate President. (READ: Senate President Drilon? It’s all set, says LP)
According to two Senate sources, Drilon has asked each senator to provide him a list of 3 committees they want to head. LP senators Ralph Recto and Teofisto Guingona III are in the running for the position.
Seniority in the House?
In the House, the issue is whether the position should go to Sarmiento because he is the LP secretary general, or Ungab because he is more senior.
Sarmiento is on his 2nd term; Ungab is on his 3rd and final term.
Abaya was LP secretary general and on his 3rd term when he chaired the committee on appropriations.
Ungab currently heads the committee on ways and means, another powerful position. It is the committee that leads revenue measures like the controversial sin tax law that the 15th Congress approved. It is a position he will have to give up if he takes the appropriations committee.
The other representative interested in the post is Quirino Rep Dakila “Dax” Cua, son of 14th Congress committee on appropriations chairman Junie Cua. He is only on his 2nd term.
Challenge to Drilon
In the Senate, the allocation of committees is more complicated. With only 24 members to choose from, Drilon has to carefully allocate all the powerful committees in a way that is agreeable to the majority.
“In the extreme, it could cost Drilon the Senate presidency,” said one LP member.
But a close ally is confident it’s not a difficult job for Drilon, considering he has been Senate President several times.
Drilon also met with leaders of major blocs in the Senate — Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile of the “macho bloc” and outgoing Sen Manny Villar Jr of the Nacionalista Party.
Under the leadership of Drilon and Abaya, the 15th Congress was able to pass the government's annual budget consistently on time in the past 3 years.
Malacañang is expected to submit its proposed 2014 budget shortly after the July 22 State of the Nation Address of President Aquino. Deliberations are expected to begin in October. – Rappler.com