MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night, April 11, reiterated that he would not hesitate to veto the “entire” 2019 P3.757-trillion budget bill if he and his legal team confirm irregularities in the document.
Duterte made the statement at a PDP-Laban campaign rally in Bacolod City, as he urged voters to choose his senatorial candidates to ensure the passage of his priority measures.
In his speech, the President said he would have a hard time pursuing his programs without enough allies in the Senate, and cited the recent 2019 budget impasse over differences between the two chambers in Congress – though both were already dominated by his allies.
“Kita mo ‘yung budget. Ang budget kasa-submit lang. I have to sign it pagdating ko. Pagbalik ko pa. Pinag-aralan pa….So ang legal ko magbasa uli. Ngayon pagka talagang tagilid ‘yan, I will outright veto the entire budget,” he said.
(Look at the budget. The budget had just been submitted. I have to sign it when I return [to Manila]. I’m still studying it…. So my legal is reviewing it. Not, if there are really irregularities, I will outright veto the entire budget.)
He said he would scrutinize the “insertions” in the budget, apparently referring to the amendments in the budget bill made by the House after the bicameral conference committee, which the Senate had asked him to veto.
Malacañang said on Friday, April 12 that the country’s economic managers have prepared “contingency plans” if Duterte vetoes the entire budget bill which would mean the government will operate on a reenacted budget for a longer period of time.
Part of the plan is to change the government’s targets for key programs.
“Our economic managers have contingency plans prepared, responsive to any conceivable event, and they will correspondingly adjust their targets, which include the execution of programs and projects relating to infrastructure as well as the delivery of basic services to the people,” said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo.
He said Malacañang will go through the budget bill with a fine-toothed comb.
“It (Office of the President) is poring over the details of the document and checking which items therein may be constitutionally infirm or legally unacceptable pursuant to the President’s power and duty to ensure that the law is enforced and the Constitution is free from any violation,” said Panelo.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, a Duterte ally, had earlier transmitted the enrolled copy of the budget bill to Duterte “with strong reservations.” The Senate also urged the President to veto post-bicam realignments, which senators said are unconstitutional. (READ: Can the budget be adjusted post-bicam? What Supreme Court says)
The House is under the leadership of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, another staunch Duterte ally.
No budget signing on April 15?
In a news briefing earlier on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the scheduled ceremonial signing of the 2019 budget on Monday, April 15, “had been removed from the calendar” of presidential activities.
Panelo volunteered the information while responding to questions on Duterte’s review of the budget bill.
On whether the President was done reviewing the budget bill, Panelo said: “Kinalendar na, pero mukhang pinag-aaralan pa. Eh baka after Holy Week (It had been calendared but it looks like it’s still under review. Maybe after Holy Week).”
When asked if the signing would likely happen after Holy Week, Panelo said, however, that anything can happen.
“Hindi. Kasi naka-calendar, tapos tinanggal sa calendar ‘di… puwede ring ibalik hindi ba? Lahat naman ng schedule niya subject to change without prior notice,” he said.
(No. Because it was calendared, then it was taken off the calendar…so it’s possible that it would be put back, right? All his schedules are subject to change without prior notice.)
The national government had been operating on a reenacted 2018 budget pending the signing of the new budget bill. – Rappler.com
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