'Last chance': Andaya presses Senate to sign 2019 budget

MANILA, Philippines – House appropriations chairperson Rolando Andaya Jr on Saturday, March 16, called on the Senate to grab its “last chance” to sign the 2019 national budget. 

“If the Senate is indeed serious in enacting a General Appropriations Act for 2019, we have until May this year to complete our task. Both chambers will resume legislative session on May 20 until June 7. That is our last chance to pass the national budget,” Andaya said.

The House of Representatives and the Senate remained in a deadlock over the 2019 budget, even after  President Rodrigo Duterte stepped in to host a meeting between their leaders earlier this week.

Senators have refused to sign the budget after the House's post-bicameral itemization of its health equipment lumpsum funds. 

Senators, particularly Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, claimed that it is unconstitutional for the House to distribute its lump sum funds after the budget was ratified in the bicameral conference committee. Andaya claimed the Senate did the same, although senators denied it.

The Supreme Court decision from 2013 does not tackle the legality of touching the budget post-bicam, only post-enactment. It did, however, instruct lawmakers to do a detailed  line-item budgeting for the full appreciation of the President.

Andaya claimed they will fulfill the requirement of line-item budgeting, where they will specify who got how much and what for.

“Line-item budgeting is our response to the people’s demand for transparency and accountability in the national budget. Lump-sum funds are more prone to corruption and violate many tenets of transparent expenditure of public funds,” said Andaya.

The Philippine government continues to operate under a reenacted budget, amounting to P3.767 trillion

“The House of Representatives is against a reenacted budget at this point in time. I hope the Senate share this sentiment,” Andaya said. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.