A SENIOR HOUSE legislator said that the Senate made P83.9 billion worth of adjustments to the 2019 Budget, continuing the word war between the chambers over the 2019 General Appropriations Bill four months into the year.
House appropriations committee chair and Camarines Sur 1st District Rep. Rolando G. Andaya Jr. said the Senate should take another look at the record in relation to realignments of the budget to fund so-called pet projects.
“I advise the Senate President and other senators to look closely into the budget books prepared by their chamber and consult once again with their technical staff who helped the Senate craft final inputs to the 2019 General Appropriations Bill,” Mr. Andaya said in a statement on Thursday.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III signed the budget bill on March 26 with “reservations,” apparently leaving it to the President to veto any provisions that where inserted after both chambers ratified the document.
Senators claim P75 billion was realigned to programs and projects under the Local Infrastructure Program of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
“The senators cannot hide the fact that they unilaterally reduced by more than P75 billion the 2019 budget allocated to the President’s major infrastructure projects and vital social programs. These cuts would also affect the benefits due to government workers, including pension and retirement benefits of retired uniformed personnel,” Mr. Andaya said.
Mr. Andaya said he has kept records of the adjustments in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill.
“The submission of these adjustments are fully documented. The House has copies of videotapes from our CCTV cameras showing the entry and exit of LBRMO (Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office) staff during the submission of the Senate realignments from Feb. 11 to March 8, 2019,” he said.
Mr. Andaya added, “If Sen. Sotto and other senators wish to get a copy of these videotapes, we can send them to the Senate anytime.”
Mr. Andaya earlier accused of Mr. Sotto of sabotaging the government’s flagship infrastructure program, “Build, Build, Build,” which the Senate President dismissed as a “last-ditch effort” to prevent the President from vetoing House realignments.
“Piece-meal explanations of the budget cuts imposed by the Senate and click-bait statements from senators are no longer acceptable. These will only confuse, rather than educate, the public on the budget authorization process,” Mr. Andaya said.
Mr. Sotto said in a statement on Wednesday that the House should not have modified the document after the ratification of the bicameral report of the 2019 Budget Bill.
In response, Mr. Andaya said: “In truth, the Senate made similar adjustments after ratification of the bicam report and increased by P83.9 billion the allocation for their pet programs and projects under various departments and agencies.”
He added, “These adjustments were submitted to the House appropriations committee by members of the Senate’s Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office beginning Feb. 11, or three days after Congress ratified the 2019 budget on Feb. 8. The Senate adjustments were submitted piece-meal until March 8, 2019.”
Asked to comment on the claims made by Mr. Andaya, Mr. Sotto said in a Viber message: “Of course LBRMO staff are there during those times because they are preparing the books for the enrolled bill.”
He also said the House’s statements represent “desperate attempts to convince the President not to veto.” — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras