Drilon: âNo choice for Duterte but veto P75-billion budget insertionsâ
Drilon, however, admitted the President would have no liability if he decides to sign the P3.757-trillion national budget without exercising his line-item veto power.
Geremy Pintolo
Drilon: ‘No choice for Duterte but veto P75-billion budget insertions’
Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - April 5, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has no choice but to veto the questionable items in the 2019 national budget, particularly the P75 billion worth of pork barrel funds illegally inserted by some members of the House of Representatives after the ratification of the national spending program for this year by both chambers, Sen. Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

Drilon, however, admitted the President would have no liability if he decides to sign the P3.757-trillion national budget without exercising his line-item veto power.

“There is a factual question involved since Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s attestation is clearly limited only to those items approved in the conference committee and ratified by both houses of Congress,” Drilon said at the Kapihan sa Senado forum.

“In effect, very clearly the certification of Senator Sotto denies the legality and approval of the P75-billion realignments,” he said.

Citing the case of the late senator Joker Arroyo vs De Venecia (GR No. 127255, 14 August 1997), Drilon said the Supreme Court explains the purpose of attestations in an enrolled bill and why the court relies on an enrolled bill as evidence that proper procedure in passing a bill has been followed.

In the SC ruling, Drilon said the high tribunal ruled that “the enrolled bill doctrine is, in fact, a rule of evidence,” which rests on the consideration that the President only has the authority to approve a bill validly passed by Congress.

“And therefore, the President’s signature as well as the attestations by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President serve as a solemn assurance that the measure was indeed passed by Congress,” Drilon explained.

“The assurance given by Senate President Sotto, in this case, was qualified. The Senate President only attests to the approval of that portion of the bill not affected by the realignments,” Drilon added.

“If there are say three items – A, B, and C – in the budget in the course of the bicam, item D was added. The first three items have P10 million each; suddenly item D was added with P10 million. Congress could not increase the budget. So what can Congress do? It has to remove one P10 million either from the three items or adjust the budget to fund item D. That is meant by the certification of Sen. Sotto,” he said.

“The necessary adjustment is a consequence of including item D in that example. You have to reduce the budget for any of the first three items. If you add the first three items you have P30 million and you will add the item D, you will have P40 million, you are not allowed to increase the President’s budget,” he noted.

Drilon emphasized the President will have no liability because the power to veto is a power of the president under the Constitution. “He is not violating anything.”

He expressed belief that the President will eventually sign the 2019 national budget.

While some members of the House did not add any amount to the P3.757-trillion national budget, Drilon said some items were erased and realigned.

“If he approves the items which were not included in the ratified bicam report, the release of the funds can be questioned in the courts,” he explained.

The national budget was transmitted to President Duterte’s office last March 12.

The government is currently operating under a reenacted budget after Congress failed to pass this year’s appropriations measure on time. The Senate said the House of Representatives delayed the transmission of its copy to the Senate due to changes in leadership in July.  –  With Delon Porcalla, Jess Diaz

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