Malacañang warning: Budget delays ‘unacceptable’ to Filipinos

Pia Ranada

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Malacañang warning: Budget delays ‘unacceptable’ to Filipinos
(UPDATED) But senators maintain they are doing their best, as they continue to scrutinize the 2019 budget

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang warned Congress that further “unreasonable” delays in passing the 2019 budget due to partisan politics would impede government programs and would thus be unacceptable to citizens.

“Further unreasonable delay on the part of Congress to approve the General Appropriation Bill that will throw a monkey wrench on the program of the administration will be unacceptable to the sovereign people that place them in office,” said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Monday evening, January 7.

Duterte convened Monday the first Cabinet meeting of 2019.

The Palace said lawmakers should put aside “partisan considerations” to ensure the speedy approval of the General Appropriations Act for 2019.

“It behooves members of Congress to steer off partisan considerations and sweep away the indifference to the plight of the citizenry and collectively focus their attention to pass the General Appropriation Bill into law for the service of the people that they have sworn to protect,” said Duterte’s spokesman.

Because Congress was unable to pass the 2019 budget before going on break last December, 2018 allocations had to be carried over in order for government processes and operations to run smoothly.

Panelo said more delays in the approval of the budget will affect “the release of the funds for the salary hike of soldiers, policemen, teachers and civilian employees” and could also impede the start of infrastructure projects and get in the way of efficient delivery of social services.

Scrutiny is crucial

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, in a text message, said: “The Palace knows the Senate is doing its best. Not our fault that the budget was submitted late.”

The House was behind its usual schedule in approving the 2019 GAB. It approved the bill on 2nd reading on October 3 but passed the bill on 3rd and final reading only on November 20. The Senate received it on November 26, lacking the time to examine the budget, which some claimed is filled with pork barrel insertions, before yearend.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said it is “a patriotic duty of every legislator” to scrutinize the national budget.

“A pork-laden budget is far worse than a delayed or re-enacted one. Scrutinizing the national budget to get rid of excessive, unconscionable, unreasonable and irregular appropriations is not playing partisan politics. Rather, I consider it a patriotic duty of every legislator…. The national budget is the lifeblood of the country. Therefore, we must see to it that we do our role in making sure it serves its purpose and not just stuff the pockets of some insatiably greedy politicians,” Lacson said in a statement.

The delays in the budget approval began when House members opposed the cash-based system for the 2019 budget proposed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team, particularly Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

Another impasse developed when allegations of pork-like funds inserted in districts of lawmakers allied with House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo were made public.

Her allies, led by Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya then made their own accusations against Diokno, claiming he was reserving funds for Duterte administration allies or that his family members were benefiting from his position in government. Diokno has denied the allegations. – with a report from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.