HOUSE appropriations committee chair and Camarines Sur 1st District Rep. Roland G. Andaya Jr. said in a letter that Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III’s reservations about the 2019 national budget have no legal basis.
Mr. Andaya said he wrote to Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea and Department of Budget and Management Acting Secretary Janet B. Abuel in separate letters on March 28 to counter the Senate President’s arguments for conditionally signing the 2019 budget bill.
“The Senate President is ill-advised by his lawyers. The letter he sent to the President expressing his ‘strong reservations’ as annotation in the 2019 National Budget enrolled bill has no legal basis. It is just a personal request, which the President may or may not take heed of,” Mr. Andaya said in a statement on Wednesday.
Mr. Sotto, despite signing the national budget on March 26, noted his “reservations” about the post ratification realignments made by the House, amounting to P95 billion.
He also asked President Rodrigo R. Duterte to veto the P75 billion worth of programs under the Local Infrastructure Program of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Mr. Andaya added, “Also, I pointed out that the ‘Senate President cannot interfere with the exercise by President Duterte of his veto power by suggesting what items should be vetoed in an enrolled bill, which bears his signature.’”
The appropriations committee chair noted in his letters that there is no “conditional signing of an enrolled bill.”
“The Senate cannot clothe his signature to the 2019 General Appropriations Bill with ambivalence or dissent,” said Mr. Andaya.
Further, he said that the arguments by the Senate President in his letter are “completely baseless.”
“For one, the realignments he cited were adjustments authorized by no less than the Bicameral Conference Committee Report, which was approved and signed by the conferees from both chambers,” said Mr. Andaya.
The budget, ratified on Feb. 8, is awaiting President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s signature.
Sought for comment, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said that Malacañang is expected to sign the budget bill soon.
“I think it will signed soon. They are just, every year the President does line item vetoes so they are just working on now I think on what will be the line item veto but there is a date for us to go to Malacañang,” Ms. Arroyo sad in a chance interview with reporters on Wednesday.
Asked to comment, Mr. Sotto told reporters over Viber: “Omnibus motions only apply to them, not the entire Congress. Palusot lahat ’yan (it’s all an excuse). Bottom line is they touched something they shouldn’t have AFTER RATIFICATION.”
“What they did affected their colleagues that’s why they complained to us aside from the fact that LBRMO (the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office) saw a red flag. But all their talk is now water under the bridge. It’s all in the President’s hands. I washed mine,” he also said, maintaining that the Senate only served its function as an independent branch of the government. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras