DEPUTY speaker Salvador Leachon of Oriental Mindoro yesterday said the P20 billion institutional amendments introduced by a small House committee are mere “corrections of style” and “errata” and not actual changes to the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 contrary to Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s claim.
“They are more in the way corrections of style and of errata, and they do not add to the total amounts which are already fixed as deliberated upon at the plenary, but rather corrections of style and errata. Needless to state, all past budget processes have accepted them with a presumption of regularity,” Leacon told reporters.
Lacson had been saying that it was illegal for congressmen to still tackle amendments to the proposed budget measure after it has been approved on the floor on third and final reading. He reminded members of the lower house that since the bill was already approved on third and final reading last October 16, congressmen are already barred from making any more changes in the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
Lacson said errata or amendments introduced to the GAB after its approval on third and final reading are unconstitutional as clearly stated in Article VI, Sec. 26, Paragraph 2 of the 1987 Constitution.
Leachon however said that due to lack of material time and in the interest of expediency, Congress “normally and traditionally does allow amendments after the third reading as these amendments are not literally so in that technical concept as to violate constitutional provisions.”
“I assure you, I guarantee you, that as far as the House leadership is concerned, we are in accordance with our agreement with the Senate and, of course, in accordance with the Constitution. We actually did not add or [make] any amendments after the third reading,” said Leachon, a trusted lieutenant of the new Speaker.
Leachon said the House “perfectly” agrees with Lacson that the budgeting process should be in accordance with the Constitution, saying congressmen also wants a national budget “that is free from constitutional attack.”
“So why should this case be singled out? With deference to the Senate, Speaker Velasco once again is categorical on this, that among his motivation to have a Congress that is with restored trust and integrity, is to start it right to lead the passage of the 2021 national budget that is fully transparent and constitutional with the ultimate thrust of giving the Filipino people a pandemic and economic responsive budget synchronized with the wishes of the Executive Department,” Leachon said.
Velasco has said the House’s version of the budget bill is “pork-free” and that it will be submitted to the Senate on October 28, a week earlier than the November 5 deadline earlier planned by the previous leadership under ex-speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, who is a member of the small panel, said congressmen will just propose individual amendments during the bicameral meetings with senators.
Salceda has said that the small House group has rejected all individual amendments submitted by lawmakers but approved P20 billion in institutional amendments, which is as follows: P5.5 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines; P2 billion for pandemic assistance; P4 billion aid to aid displaced workers; P2 billion for the acquisition of C-130 planes;P2 billion for the Department of Health’s (DOH) Health Facilities Enhancement Program to complete the construction of hospitals; P2 billion for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for mobility assets for the PNP; P1.7 billion for the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Internet needs for online classes; P500 million for energy governance, of which P400 million is for the Philippine National Oil Company for the development of renewable energy and P100 million for the Energy Regulatory Commission to improve and modernize its system; P300 million for the DOH for mental health programs.