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MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon shot back at 1PACMAN party-list Representative Mikee Romero for blaming issues in the Philippines’ hosting of the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) on the Senate, for supposedly holding back the passage of the 2019 national budget, which Romero said hampered hosting preparations.
“Ito ay malaking insulto sa Senado. This is an insult to the leadership of the Senate,” Drilon said in a statement on Monday, November 25, adding that he “rejects” Romero’s “unfounded accusations.”
“The delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget was caused by unconstitutional insertions blatantly made by the House of Representatives in the budget to the tune of P95.3 billion worth of pork barrel funds,” Drilon went on.
The passage of the national budget for 2019 was delayed by several months – well into April – because the Senate had flagged the House’s realignment of certain lump sums in the budget bill after it had been ratified by the bicameral conference committee.
In March, Drilon proposed that the Senate submit the budget bill to President Rodrigo Duterte “with reservations,” that is, withholding approval of the realigned items, thus ending the impasse.
Duterte vetoed the House’s insertions when he signed the budget in April.
Earlier on Monday, Romero, a member of the Philippine polo team, told ABS-CBN News Channel that Drilon, as a member of the Senate, was “partly to blame” for snafus in welcoming and billeting athletes who will compete in the SEA Games.
Athletes from Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and even the Philippines have had to wait long hours at the airport, sleep on hotel floors, and cancel practice sessions because of logistical problems, for which the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee issued an apology on Sunday, November 24.
“If they have approved it and the budget was already available last January, all these mishaps might not have happened,” Romero said, referring to the Senate.
But Drilon, who questioned anomalies in the SEA Games hosting, including the P50-million cauldron for the symbolic flame, said the government would have ended up with a reenacted 2018 budget if the Senate had not intervened.
The 2018 budget had no allocation for hosting the SEA Games.
“Had it not been for my efforts, certain quarters in the administration would have pushed through with recommending to the President the veto of the entire 2019 budget,” Drilon said, calling on Romero to “refresh his memory.”
“Kung pinayagan po nating makalusot itong P95.3 billion pork barrel, kaya nitong punuin yung P50-million kaldero sa SEA Games,” Drilon added. (If we had let this P95.3 pork barrel slide, it could have filled up the P50-million cauldron in the SEA Games.) – Rappler.com