Legarda to consider reenacted budget proposal in bicam talks

By FilaneMikee Cervantes 

MANILA — Senator Loren Legarda said Wednesday she would take into consideration the reenacted budget proposal of Senate President Vicente Sotto III in the congressional bicameral conference meeting on the proposed 2019 national budget.

In a text message, Legarda said the technical staff of both chambers of Congress have finished going through the disagreeing provisions of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB), noting that the original plan was to go through each provision and corresponding recommendation line by line.

“However, upon consultation with the Senate leadership and with the Executive Department, I will take into consideration the statement of Senate President Sotto, as I lead the Senate panel in meeting with our House counterpart later today,” Legarda said.

Saying he was “sick and tired” of the numerous “pork” allegations hounding the 2019 budget, Sotto proposed the withdrawal of the Senate-approved GAB and pushed for a reenacted budget.

Senators PanfiloLacson, Sonny Angara, and Aquilino Pimentel III backed the Senate President’s reenacted budget proposal.

Lacson noted that since the present Congress started in 2016, Sotto was among the three senators who approached him and told him he would not avail of “whatever regular allocation”, or the so-called pork allocations, if offered. The two other senators Lacson was referring to are Senators Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan.

“I know there are others among our colleagues who have since done the same. Anyway, he must be as frustrated as I am as well, as most of our like-minded colleagues that pork has not left the annual budget even after the SC ruling outlawing the same in a landmark decision,” Lacson said.

In 2013, the Supreme Court (SC) declared as unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel”.
Angara said he will support the leadership decision as a member of the majority.

“I think he was getting frustrated with the developments at the bicam given the limited time to pass the budget,” he said.
Pimentel said he trusts the good judgment of the Senate President.

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto warned against a reenacted budget, arguing that it would not be good for job creation and would stall the growth of the economy. He further added that the government’s infrastructure program, “Build, Build, Build”, would suffer.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito explained that the Senate interventions — such as the restoration of the funding for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the Department of Health — are mostly institutional.

“It will be sad that all the effort to improve government services will be wasted,” Ejercito said. (PNA)