MANILA — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday denied House appropriations panel chairman Rolando Andaya Jr.’s claim that the upper chamber made some realignments in the proposed 2019 national budget after the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report.
“As far as we’re concerned, we did not touch anything. The Senate did not touch anything, contrary to what the House appropriation chairman is saying na Senado rin daw merong ganun (that the Senate also made realignments). Hindi (No),” Sotto told reporters.
Sotto said he has the assurance of the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO), Senate committee on finance chair Loren Legarda, and Senator Panfilo Lacson that the Senate “did not touch anything” — not even a “single centavo was touched” — after it was ratified by both chambers of Congress.
Andaya earlier bared that some PHP75-billion in realignment was made by the Senate after both chambers ratified the 2019 budget. Of the PHP75-billion post-bicam realignment, Andaya said at least PHP25 billion was “parked” as additional fund for the senators’ pet projects in the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Sotto, citing the LBRMO, said that the House tweaked around PHP79 billion in the 2019 budget by increasing or decreasing the funding for several districts after ratification.
“May mga increase at decrease doon sa mga districts at may mga congressman mismo na tumatawag sa amin na nakarating sa kanila yung mga nangyayaring yun, sila’y nabawasan, nadagdag sa kung saan saan. Kaya ang total nun pagka pinagsama-sama mo nasa PHP79 billion (There were increases and decreases made in the funding for districts, and some congressmen even called us up to tell us that such tweaks were made — either a reduction, or addition of funds. The total of that when combined is around PHP79 billion),” Sotto said.
Sotto maintained that he will not sign the budget bill that will be transmitted to Malacañang for the President’s signature if the House made revisions in the bill after it was ratified.
“Simple lang eh. Kung anong pinasa, yun ang dapat gawing enrolled copy. Hindi pwedeng galawin. Maliwanag yan. (It’s simple. The enrolled copy should be what was passed and ratified [by both chambers]. It should not be tweaked. That’s clear.) We will be violating the Revised Penal Code, we will be violating the Constitution if we change anything after we have ratified it in both Houses,” Sotto said. (PNA) By Filane Mikee Cervantes