Ungab to Villafuerte: Bill withdrawal to 'definitely derail' 2020 budget passage
MANILA, Philippines – Administration-allied lawmakers are now clashing after House committee on appropriations chairman Isidro Ungab formally opposed Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte's move to withdraw the 2020 budget bill from the plenary.
Ungab issued his opposition letter addressed to Villafuerte on Monday, September 2. He also gave copies to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, and Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales II. (READ: Smells like pork? 'Premature' 2020 budget bill withdrawn in House plenary)
"Your proposal to withdraw and amend the general appropriations bill (GAB) for FY (fiscal year) 2020 will definitely derail the schedule and approval of the budget," said Ungab, who represents the 3rd District of Davao City, to Villafuerte.
Ungab said congressional staff are busy gathering the necessary data and reports requested by lawmakers ahead of the plenary deliberations on the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for 2020.
"To prepare another set...will require enormous time, efforts, and resources that will surely affect or delay the passage of the 2020 budget," said Ungab.
The Davao City congressman had ordered the appropriations panel secretariat to file the 2020 budget bill for 1st reading in the plenary on August 28, but Villafuerte moved to block the filing. The deputy speaker claimed that Ungab's filing was "premature."
But Ungab contested this, arguing that it has long been the practice in the House for the appropriations panel to prepare the GAB as soon as the executive branch submits to Congress the National Expenditure Program (NEP), the version of the annual budget as prepared by the executive branch.
Ungab is no stranger to the budget process in the House, having been appropriations chairperson back in the 16th Congress.
Ungab warned Villafuerte that any changes in the NEP that would be reflected in the refiled GAB version would "surely raise doubts on our proceedings and the House will be questioned on why it will alter the proposed budget prepared by the executive department."
Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate already raised a red flag in the withdrawal, saying it "smells like the greasy patronage pork is being put into the oven."
Accusations of illegal budget insertions hounded the 2019 budget, causing a months-long delay in its passage and leading to the government reenacting the 2018 budget in the 1st quarter of this year.
Ungab's clash with Villafuerte is also a sign that at least two Duterte-allied factions in the House are colliding.
Presidential children Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte initially pushed for Ungab to be House speaker. But Ungab withdrew from the speakership fight after President Rodrigo Duterte himself endorsed a term sharing agreement between two of his allies: Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco.
Villafuerte is a close ally of Cayetano. – Rappler.com