Senate President Vicente Sotto III last week said he would not sign the enrolled copy of the General Appropriations Bill unless the House of Representatives withdraws all the changes it made amounting to over P95 billion into an already ratified budget.
Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal
Sotto flags mixed signals from House on 2019 budget
(Philstar.com) - March 19, 2019 - 6:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday flagged mixed signals from the House of Representatives on the likelihood that the lower chamber would recall its copy of the 2019 spending plan which senators claimed contained post-ratification adjustments.

“Oo, medyo nalilito na kami. We really don't know what is the intention, but what is really the decision of the House leadership. What they want to do,” Sotto said in an interview.

“Basta we stand firm to what we have already said, and what we have decided, and that is we cannot agree to something that is violative of Article 170 of the Revised Penal Code which is falsification of legislative documents. It's as simple as that,” he added.

Sotto last week said he would not sign the enrolled copy of the General Appropriations Bill unless the House of Representatives withdraws all the changes it made amounting to over P95 billion into an already ratified budget.

The squabble has delayed the signing of the budget bill by President Rodrigo Duterte, who said he would not approve an “illegal document.”

Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. (Camarines Sur) insisted that the House only “itemized” the lump sums created during the bicameral conference committee on the budget bill, adding that the Senate also did the same to the spending plan after it was ratified.

According to reports, Sotto and Sen. Panfilo Lacson in separate interviews said Rep. Ronnie Zamora (San Juan City)—whom Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Pampanga) sent last week to “negotiate” with the Senate—told them that the House leadership agreed to withdraw its version of the budget bill and transmit the one ratified by Congress last February 8.

But on Tuesday, Arroyo said: “No, we have not withdrawn our version. We’re in discussions about what is the proposed new version.”

Asked if he would agree to hold a “clarificatory meeting” with House lawmakers, Sotto said: “Hindi na siguro, we will just wait for their final decision. Kami kasi we already have a final decision, and that is to stand by what we ratified.”

The inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee last week cut its 2019 gross domestic product growth projection to 6-7 percent from 7-8 percent originally as new projects remain unfunded due to the budget deadlock.

Separately, the National Economic and Development Authority said the economy could expand by 4.2-4.9 percent this year if the new spending plan were enacted as late as August. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral

2019 BUDGET
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