MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers are planning to realign funds initially meant for the 2020 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to other government agencies instead, indicating a high chance next year’s polls would be postponed.
On Monday, September 23, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House will primarily source from the P5-billion budget for the 2020 barangay polls the additional funds they want to give to the following departments and programs next year:
- Department of Agriculture (DA) to buy more palay stocks from farmers amid the plummeting rices of rice
- Department of Education for additional equipment and training for teachers under the Kindergarten to 12 program
- “Full electrification” of the country by the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term
- Philippine sports programs in preparation for the 2020 ASEAN Para Games and 2020 Tokyo Olympics
The Speaker previously said the House wants to give an additional P2 billion to the DA to help rice farmers, but they are now increasing that further to P3 billion.
Cayetano has not specified the exact amount legislators want to give to the other 3 programs, but he estimated that the lower chamber wants to realign less than P10 billion under the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for 2020.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are prioritizing the passage of the measure postponing the May 2020 barangay and SK elections to May 2023 instead. (READ: 18th Congress leaders approve initial list of pet bills)
This is among the priority measures Duterte cited in his 4th State of the Nation Address.
Apart from the P5-billion budget originally set for the 2020 barangay elections, Cayetano said their proposed realignments would also be sourced from the P63-billion right-of-way funds.
“First is sa barangay elections. So hindi naman natin itutuloy ang barangay elections, so there’s more than P5 billion. The other one na nakita natin ‘yong right-of-way funds ay hindi naman magagamit lahat,” Cayetano said in an ambush interview.
(We’ll source it first from the barangay elections. We will not be holding the barangay elections, so there’s more than P5 billion we can use from there. The other source of funds we can see is the right-of-way funds that would not be used in full.)
The Taguig City-Pateros congressman then gave the assurance that legislators would only realign funds from programs and projects that could spare allocations to be taken away from them in 2020.
“So let me assure you wala tayong ibabawas na mayroon na tayong kumpiyanse na magagamit. So ang tinitignan namin ngayon kung nasaan ‘yong taba. Pero pagka-muscle ‘yan, hindi namin gagalawin,” said Cayetano.
(So let me assure you that we will not be removing funds from projects that we are sure would be able to utilize their budgets. What we are looking at right now are the fatty places in the budget. But if it’s a muscle, we won’t touch it.)
The House already passed the 2020 budget on 3rd and final reading on Friday, September 20.
But the lower chamber also created a small committee that would accept House members’ further individual amendments to realign funds in the 2020 budget.
The small committee is expected to submit the final list of the House’s proposed amendments – including the 4 realignments Cayetano mentioned on Monday – to the bicameral conference committee in the next weeks, when congressmen and senators are expected to further thresh out the amendments of the respective chambers.
Section 25, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution bars Congress from making other amendments to a bill that has already been passed on 3rd reading.
But Cayetano said the House merely followed a process that has long been practiced by legislators when it comes to the budget bill. He said the small committee was formed to help save time.
“We passed it on 3rd reading with that collatila. This has been the tradition of the House ever since. Because if you allow individual amendments on the floor to be made by 300 lawmakers who would get 5 minutes each, that’s 1,500 minutes,” said Cayetano in a mix of English and Filipino.
“So all of these, wala kaming binago na sistemang ‘yan (we didn’t change that system). That’s all part of the system that was in place,” he added. – Rappler.com
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