MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson said Friday, November 8, that the bicameral conference committee on the 2020 budget bill should be opened to the public, however, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano rejected the idea.
Cayetano told the Philippine Star that an estimated P50 billion to P100 billion worth of realignments will be introduced by House lawmakers during the bicam.
Cayetano said that the realignments to be introduced to the budget bill when the bicam convenes will be for the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education, among others.
"As things are turning out now, I was correct after all. P100 billion to be realigned in the bicam is such a huge amount that could distort the entire budget to the detriment of the priority projects of the government," Lacson said.
The senator speculated that the multibillion-peso realignments was the reason why the House leadership turned down making the bicam open to the public.
"Probably that is the reason why the House leadership is resisting transparency in the conduct of the bicam. I don't understand for the life of me how it could turn into a circus," Lacson said.
"On the other hand, the bicam conferees will behave better if the proceedings are made open to the public," he added.
Cayetano had said that opening the bicam to the media might affect the bicam discussions.
"We in the House of Representatives have no problem with transparency but we have to be realistic on how to get the job done…We’re not afraid of transparency, but we don’t want to make the bicam a circus," Cayetano said as quoted by the Star.
House lawmakers fastracked the passage of the P4.1-trillion 2020 general appropriations bill (GAB) at the lower chamber, beating their October deadline when the measure was approved on final reading in September.
As the budget bill was certified as urgent, the House lawmakers were able to approve the measure minutes after the plenary passed it on second reading.
Lacson had earlier raised concerns on the move, as the House did not introduce individual amendments to the GAB except for the P9.5-billion "institutional amendments." (READ: Lacson rebuffs Congress: ‘Wrong’ to say House passed 2020 budget in record time)
"The P9.5-billion amendments of the House being institutional should be commended which I did. However, there's still the bicam conference to worry about. As things are turning out now, I was correct after all," Lacson said on Friday.
Initially, Lacson suggested that the Senate adopts the House version of the budget to prevent the House from making further amendments to the GAB. But the senators disagreed with Lacson's idea as they have their own proposals to tweak the budget.
The Senate targets to finish the budget deliberations by November 22, so that the bicam can convene around November 25 to 30. – Rappler.com