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MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives passed on Wednesday, September 27, the spending plan of the Marcos administration for 2024, despite intense criticisms from the chamber’s minuscule opposition bloc.
The House took longer to pass the budget request this year – 57 days since the proposal was turned over by the executive branch – compared to last year’s 37 days, although the chamber still achieved its target date.
Marcos’ certification of the measure as urgent allowed the House to approve the bill on second and third readings on the same day, bypassing the constitutional requirement that a bill be read on three separate days.
A total of 296 lawmakers voted in favor of the passage of House Bill No. 8980, while three others – all from Makabayan bloc – voted against it.
The government’s spending plan for 2024 is higher by 9.5% compared to this year’s P5.268 trillion budget, and is intended to “prioritize expenditures that will sustain economic growth,” according to Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman.
The biggest development on the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) just before it was approved was the decision of the House leadership to strip Sara Duterte’s Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education of confidential funds, worth P650 million combined for 2024.
House appropriations panel chairperson Zaldy Co confirmed that the secret funds would be realigned to agencies at the forefront of efforts to address the rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea.
He did not make mention of any changes on the proposed P4.56 billion in confidential and intelligence funds of the Office of the President, which is nearly half of the Marcos administration’s proposed P10.1-billion CIF for next year.
The House formed a small committee that would receive individual amendments on HB 8980, composed of Co, appropriations committee senior vice chairperson Stella Quimbo, Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe, and Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan.
Rejecting the measure, the Makabayan bloc said HB 8980 does not address the pressing needs of the Filipino public.
“If we will evaluate the 2024 GAB on the context of the needs and calls of our countrymen, it will get a failing grade. It is unresponsive to the appeals of Filipinos on the issues on food, livelihood, and services, while increasing the funds for fascism, pork, foreign interests, and debt payment,” House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro of ACT Teachers said.
The group also underscored the lack of transparency in how confidential funds are being utilized.
“While we are in dire need of funds for hospitals, schools, and agencies with social services mandate, lucky agencies will receive a ballooned confidential and intelligence fund worth P10.14 billion,” Castro added.
During the vote, Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel called out the majority for muting his microphone when he tried to make a point of order minutes prior. He wanted to question why the bill was certified as urgent.
“My microphone was shut. That’s disrespectful to the public,” he said. – Rappler.com