Sotto eyes 2019 budget approval by last week of January

By FilaneMikeeCervantes  J

MANILA — Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III is eyeing the ratification of the proposed 2019 PHP3.757-trillion national budget by January 27.

In a press conference on Thursday, Sotto said members of the chamber would meet in a caucus to discuss the timetable for the budget deliberations when sessions resume this month.

Sotto noted that the delay in the scheduled salary hike of government employees for this year would not take long as he gave assurance that the Senate would pass the proposed 2019 national budget on third and final reading next week.

“One month langnamanyung delay kung tutuusin (After all, the delay is just for one month) because we are assuring them that as far as the Senate is concerned, hopefully by next week, when we resume, we will be able to pass it on third reading,” Sotto said.

“Hopefully by the 27th of January, which is our target date, e dapatyun ratified na ng both Houses at pwede ng pirmahan ng Presidente (the 2019 budget is already ratified by both Houses and would be up for signing by the President),” he added.

The fourth and last tranche of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) has been deferred pending the approval of the proposed national budget.

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said it may be unconstitutional to implement a new round of salary increases for government workers without approving the proposed 2019 budget first.

Senator PanfiloLacson refuted Diokno’s claim, stressing that the budget stalemate should not be a reason to delay the scheduled salary hike for government employees.

“Mr. DBM Secretary, implement the salary increase now. It is not unconstitutional. It has basis in law and there is PHP99.446 billion under the MPBF [Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund] in the 2018 budget,” Lacson said in a post on his Twitter account.

“Pointing to a re-enacted budget won’t fly,” he added.

On December 28, 2018, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed a resolution extending the validity of the 2018 National Expenditure Program to December 31, 2019.

Currently, the government has started operating under a reenacted budget on January 1 this year until the 2019 General Appropriations Act is passed.

Congress failed to pass the budget bill before the end of 2018 because of allegations of “pork” insertions in the 2019 budget. (PNA)