MANILA – If the Senate and the House of Representatives fail to pass the 2019 national budget, every Filipino will be at the receiving end of the difficulty, warned President Rodrigo Duterte.
He, however, also stressed he won’t sign an “illegal document.
The President was referring to the alleged modification made by the House on the budget even after the bicameral conference committee already ratified it.
According to Duterte, the government’s operation under a reenacted budget is detrimental to everyone as his administration won’t be able to implement projects that should be done this year.
“We will have a slide in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) if we are going to use a reenacted budget. Everyone will suffer, including our law enforcement,” Duterte said. “(But) I will not sign anything that will be an illegal document.”
Lawmakers failed to approve the P3.7-trillion 2019 expenditure plan before their 2018 Christmas break due to supposed budget insertions.
Up to now, the House of Representatives and the Senate are still quarreling over the alleged changes made by congressmen on the proposed 2019 budget even after the bicameral conference committee already approved the final version.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday said Duterte is set to intervene in the mess with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea calling for a meeting with senators last night to discuss the budget.
Sotto said senators who joined the meeting with Duterte were Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Finance Committee chair Loren Legarda, and senators Gringo Honasan and Panfilo Lacson.
“It is simple. Let’s revert back to what we (Congress) passed in the bicam, ratified by both Houses, send it to us – we know what we passed – and I’m sure we can transmit the budget to the President in a matter of days,” Sotto said.
Over the weekend, Lacson alleged that the House made realignments of about P95 billion from the ratified budget, of which P70 billion was “parked” at the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) central office apparently for future disbursements for projects to be identified by concerned congressmen.
Malacañang, meanwhile, remains hopeful that the government will not operate on a reenacted budget until August, as what was warned by Lacson if Congress fails to agree on the budget.
“I’m sure they (lawmakers) will be agreeing eventually on what to do. All of them are concerned about the welfare of the country,” Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
“Perhaps, if I will have my educated guess – the President will persuade (them) so that their (row) will be finished, if there is any,” he added. “But knowing members of Congress, they always agree eventually.”/PN