HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS committee chair and Camarines Sur 1st District Rep. Rolando G. Andaya Jr. said Congress has included a list of itemized allocations in a fourth volume of the 2019 national budget bill, claiming that the practice makes the bill compliant with Supreme Court directives accompanying its landmark Pork Barrel ruling.
“This is the first time that the General Appropriations Act, once signed into law by the President, is made up of four volumes of budget books. The House leadership has moved for the itemization of the budget for specific programs and projects in compliance with the latest Supreme Court’s decision on the pork barrel issue,” Mr. Andaya said in a statement on Wednesday.
The “itemization” of lump-sum items by House representatives to the bicameral conference committee effectively altered the bicam-approved document, which according to Senators was unlawful, though the House replied that itemized lump sums improved transparency. The dispute delayed transmission of the ratified document to Malacañang.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said Tuesday that the 2019 national budget could be signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as early as this week and added that he believes it will not be allowed to lapse into law in its current form, raising the prospect of a partial veto.
Malacañang received a copy of the 2019 General Appropriations Act on March 26.
“Records of the bicameral deliberations on the national budget would show that the fourth book was a condition put forward by the House of Representatives during the initial stage of the bicam and accepted by the Senate contingent,” added Mr. Andaya.
He noted that the Supreme Court in 2013 instructed legislators to adopt detailed line-item budgeting for the “full appreciation of the President.”
“Line-item budgeting is our response to the people’s demand for transparency and accountability in the national budget,” Mr. Andaya said. “Lump-sum funds are more prone to corruption and violate many tenets of transparent expenditure of public funds. It is for this reason that the Supreme Court had declared discretionary lump sum funds unconstitutional.”
Further, Mr. Andaya said that the senators may opposed the line-item budgeting approach but it is in full compliance with the law.
“The public release of the new budget law will leave our esteemed senators no choice but to identify their individual realignments which found print in the 2019 GAA. Only by doing so can the public be made fully aware what are the pet programs and projects of the senators they voted into office,” he said.
Asked to comment, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said in a phone message to BusinessWorld, “I have no idea what he is talking about. He should stop and wait for the President.” — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras