House fails to meet own deadline to pass 2019 budget by October

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives has failed to meet its own deadline to pass the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019 before going on a month-long break this October.

The House plenary terminated session at 8:54 pm on Wednesday, October 10, without voting on 3rd and final reading for House Bill No. 8169 or the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

The 17th Congress will resume session on November 12 until December 14 before taking another break for the holidays. It will then reopen session on January 14, 2019.

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya previously said they were targeting to approve the 2019 budget by Saturday, October 13.  (READ: House approves on 2nd reading proposed P3.757 trillion 2019 budget)

"The House leadership has made a commitment to wrap up the deliberations on the proposed budget before the October break. Hopefully, we can pass the General Appropriations Bill in the House of Representatives before October 13," Andaya said on September 17.

With its failure to pass the budget on Wednesday,  the lower chamber still has a little over a month to pass the 2019 GAA before the year ends. The clock will be against them, however, because the Senate will also have to do 3 readings of the 2019 GAA  between November 12 to December 14. 

The Senate will have to work double time so President Rodrigo Duterte will be able to sign the 2019 GAA into law before December 31.

Still, the last session day was productive for the House. The plenary ratified the following bills:

Lawmakers also approved on 3rd and final reading the bill declaring the last Monday of January of every year as a special working holiday in observance of National Bible Day.

Why the delay on the part of the House? The small committee that the House formed to finalize amendments to the 2019 GAA are still not done with their work. 

COOP-NATCCO Representative Anthony Bravo, a member of the small committee, said they are scrutinizing every line item to ensure budget allocations are truly necessary for certain departments.

The panel is tasked to finalize the individual amendments to the 2019 GAA, including commitments made by legislators to increase the budgets of certain departments and offices – like the judiciary and the Commission on Human Rights – during the plenary deliberations. 

The same panel also has the responsibility to itemize the line items where the P51.792 billion funds from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will be realigned instead.

The House had formed a committee of the whole to realign the said DPWH funds originally allocated for infrastructure projects across 15 regions. The money will instead go to other projects of the DPWH and other state agencies instead. 

These are supposedly the funds that were “parked” by the previous House leadership for favored lawmakers, a charge that ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, ex-majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and House committee on appropriations chairperson Karlo Nograles denied

Sources said the money was intended for a “parking” funds scheme, when a lump sum of money, often without a specific purpose identified, is listed under the budget of a particular congressional district. However, the congressman of that district is informed by a fellow lawmaker that this particular allocation was merely listed or "parked" in that allocation, but will be used for a different project or district. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

image