THE squabble over the National Budget continues as House appropriations committee chair and Camarines Sur 1st District Rep. Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. demanded that senators disclose their individual realignments in the 2019 national budget, and Senate officers denied that there were any changes made.
“I do not know why are the senators so afraid of making public their individual realignments. Wala naman tayong dapat itago sa publiko (There is nothing we should hide from the public). As responsible officials tasked with budget authorization, we must all be ready to defend our positions and decisions,” said Mr. Andaya in a statement released on Friday, April 5.
The Camarines Sur representative made the statement after Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III denied on Thursday that Senate made post-ratification adjustments worth P83.9 billion for pet projects.
“Eighty-three what? I don’t even know what he is talking about,” Mr. Sotto told reporters via Viber.
He added, “LBRMO [Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office] and finance comm[committee] can swear to all that we did not touch anything after ratification except what was agreed in bicam.”
For her part, the Senate’s Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office director general Yolanda D. Doblon said in a statement: “We are at the Committee on Appropriations Office to prepare for the printing of the enrolled bill. Preparation of the enrolled bill requires the presence of the technical staff of both Houses to ensure that the amendments are carried in accordance with the Bicameral Conference Committee.”
She added that “there is no need for the Congressman to furnish the Senators a copy of the CCTV of the House of Representatives.”
Further, Ms. Doblon said that the alleged amendments were “already made to known to the public.”
However, Mr. Andaya slammed the LBRMO chief’s claim: “What I cannot understand is her explanation that the senators’ realignments were already made known to the public…. Kung matagal na pong alam ito ng publiko, hindi na ito ibabalita ng media (If this was already made known to the public, then the media should not have reported about it). Journalists do no report old news.”
Mr. Andaya added, “I was forced to make full disclosure of the budget cuts and their realignments after the senators refused to come out clean on the issue. The taxpaying public cannot be kept in the dark as far as government expenditures are concerned. They need to know where their taxes go.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said on Thursday that President Rodrigo R. Duterte has “no choice but to veto” the items in the 2019 national budget identified by the Senate President as “unconstitutional realignments.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently said that Malacañang is expected to sign the budget bill soon. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras