A further unreasonable delay by Congress to approve the General Appropriation Bill will throw a monkey wrench on the administration’s program and will be unacceptable to the people, Malacañang said Monday night.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said any further delay would impede government programs.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday convened the first Cabinet meeting of 2019.
Meanwhile, Duterte on Tuesday cleared Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno of the allegations of House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. that there was an “insertion” in the 2019 national budget allegedly for flood control projects.
Panelo said Duterte found Andaya’s allegations misplaced.
“The President is a former member of Congress. He knows what happens there. He’s in the Executive, so he knows Secretary Diokno is not involved there,” Panelo told reporters.
At the Senate, Senator Panfilo Lacson said a pork-laden budget was far worse than a delayed or reenacted one.
“Scrutinizing the national budget to get rid of excessive, unconscionable, unreasonable and irregular appropriations is not playing partisan politics,” Lacson said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Department of Budget and Management should not hold “hostage” the salary increase for government employees, calling on the agency to implement the fourth tranche of the salary adjustment immediately
“The DBM does not have to wait for Congress to approve the 2019 General Appropriations Act before it implements the fourth tranche of the salary increase,” Drilon said.
The Palace said lawmakers should put aside “partisan considerations” to ensure the speedy approval of the General Appropriations Act for 2019.
“It behooves the members of Congress to steer off partisan considerations and sweep away the indifference to the plight of the citizenry and collectively focus their attention to pass the General Appropriation Bill into law for the service of the people that they have sworn to protect,” Panelo said. Nat Mariano and Macon Ramos-Araneta
Because Congress was unable to pass the 2019 budget before going on a break last December, the 2018 allocations had to be carried over in order for the government processes and operations to run smoothly.
Panelo said more delays in the approval of the budget would affect “the release of the funds for the salary hike of soldiers, policemen, teachers, and civilian employees” and could also impede the start of infrastructure projects and get in the way of efficient delivery of social services.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, in a text message, said: “The Palace knows the Senate is doing its best. Not our fault that the budget was submitted late.”
The House was behind its usual schedule in approving the 2019 budget. It approved the bill on second reading on Oct. 3 but passed the bill on third and final reading only on Nov. 20. The Senate received it on Nov. 26 but lacked the time to examine the budget, which some claimed was filled with pork barrel insertions, before the year-end.