The House of Representatives will work double time to pass the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 before it adjourns session in October.
“We may have started the deliberations a little late, but we will do what is necessary to finish the budget on time, even if it means working until the wee hours of the morning,” Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said.
He added that the House will conduct exhaustive discussions and debates on the budget, as the chamber is now at a stage where it is required to scrutinize the National Expenditure Program submitted by the Executive Department.
The plenary debates on the budget measure has been delayed following the discovery of the alleged P50-billion insertions intended for specific legislative districts of some congressmen.
Nograles also said the House which was convened into committee of the whole “will decide where to put the money and what items will be funded.”
He said debates about the budget were a part of the process that would allow legislators to propose amendments to the budget so that funding can be made available for agencies they believe require it.
This developed as House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. said the House was “off to a good a start” in deliberating on the money measure that was marred Monday by the alleged insertions in the next year’s appropriations.
“First day of budget debates was long but productive. Started 10 [o’ clock in the morning], finished almost 4 o’clock in the morning, the next day, or 18 hours, non-stop. This kind of marathon session is usually reserved for the last day. But the Speaker wanted all interpellation on agencies scheduled for the day to be finished regardless of time.,” Andaya said.
Last Wednesday, the House opened its plenary debates on House Bill 8169 after Compostella Valley Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, senior vice chairperson of the House appropriations committee, delivered her sponsorship speech.
This was followed by the discussion on the proposed budgets of government agencies, such as the Departments of Education, and of Social Welfare and Development, Agrarian Reform, Trade and Industry, National Economic and Development, Office of the Ombudsman, among others.
“This (is) on top of the exhaustive debates on the general principles, the major programs, the fiscal program, the macroeconomic assumptions and the sources of financing of next year’s expenditure program. Debate was never curtailed, nor abbreviated,” Andaya said.
As soon as the plenary debates on the budget bill is done, Nograles said the House will introduce amendments to it.
For example, Nograles said, this was when legislators could move to restore the budget of the scholarship programs for college students in private universities under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) or to add funds for the country’s Sitio Electrification Program under the National Electrification Administration (NEA).
The CHED and NEA earlier aired concerns about the cuts to their budgets, which would adversely affect the said programs.
Nograles emphasized that the disagreements between legislators that stemmed from the budget deliberations were part of the process, and would not affect their ability to perform their functions.
“That is normal and that is the democratic process. Healthy exchange of ideas is the true essence of democracy,” Nograles said.
“We are all professionals here. We are all public servants. So I think let us just work, for the Filipino people,” he added.