2019 budget deadlock? Roque points to new House leadership

Pia Ranada
2019 budget deadlock? Roque points to new House leadership
'How else do you explain Congress refusing to act on the President’s budget?' asks Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang cannot help but think that the deadlock in the proposed 2019 budget is because of the “new leadership” in the House of Representatives.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque was careful not to outrightly blame Speaker  Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or the other new House leaders for the apparent House “rejection” of the executive’s proposed 2019 budget. But he kept citing the “new leadership” in the House, embodied by Arroyo.

“It so happens there was a change in leadership and, for the first time, the budget en masse was rejected in its entirety. What are we supposed to think?” he said in a Palace news briefing on Tuesday, August 14.

“Apparently, the change in leadership has also brought in a new kind of relationship. How else do you explain Congress refusing to act on the President’s budget?” he added.

Roque, however, eventually softened his remarks, saying Arroyo remains a close ally in the eyes of Malacañang.

“We consider Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as an equally close ally as former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez,” said Duterte’s spokesman.

Nevertheless, Roque called on members of the House to “explain” their refusal to hold budget hearings.

He reiterated that Malacañang will stand by the economic managers’ proposed cash-based budget system in 2019. (READ: What is cash-based budgeting?)

“I’ve talked to the economic managers. We’re still sticking to cash-based [system],” said Roque.

The impasse on the 2019 budget has cooled ties between Malacañang and the House of Representatives, dominated by Duterte’s allies.

Roque admitted he has been “harsh” in his words about the House but said he was just trying to bring home a point.

“This is not a Secretary’s budget. This is the President’s budget,” said the Palace spokesman.

He could not say if Duterte will be meeting with lawmakers to resolve the issue. However, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno met Davao Representative Karlo Nograles and Senator Loren Legarda, chairpersons of the House and Senate finance committees, respectively. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.