INTRODUCING amendments to the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) after it has been approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives is an unconstitutional act, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said yesterday as he took exemption to the statement of ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap that congressmen can still make insertions into the national budget.
Pangilinan said introducing amendments or errata in the GAB after it has been passed on third and final reading is not allowed under the Constitution.
“That is not consistent with the constitutional process of legislation. If you ask me, errata is not the proper remedy. Any amendments should be tackled in the bicam (bicameral conference committee),” Pangilinan told radio dzBB.
Yap, chairman of the House appropriations committee, has said that congressmen can still revise or make an errata in the GAB since the proposed national budget is a “special case” and it cannot be avoided that the different departments could have erred in providing the figures for their respective budgets since the GAB has been swiftly passed after it was certified as urgent by the President.
Pangilinan said senators would oppose, question and likely reject any amendments or revisions that House members will make in the version of the GAB that it will send to the Senate.
He said deliberations on the measure can be delayed if congressmen insist on their position.
“Talagang ku-kuwestiyunin ng Senate ‘yan. Kapag pinasa natin sa third reading, which we did two years ago, di ba, we passed it, the SP (Senate President) signed it but there were reservations and these were identified which were eventually vetoed (The Senate will really question that. Once a bill has been passed on third reading [no more amendments can be made], which we did two years ago. We [the senators] passed it, the Senate President signed it, but there were reservations and these were identified which were eventually vetoed [by the President],)” Pangilinan added.
He was referring to the last-minute insertions worth P95.8 billion programs and projects inserted into the P3.75 trillion national budget even as both chambers have ratified the version approved by the bicameral conference committee.
After months of impasse, Senate President Vicente Sotto III eventually signed the ratified version of the GAB but with “reservations.”
President Duterte signed the 2019 national budget in April 2019, prompting the government to run on a reenacted budget for more than three months.
Pangilinan said the same scenario might happen again for the 2021 national budget.
“That’s exactly what happened two years ago, it can happen again. The Senate is standing firm na after third reading hindi na pwedeng i-correct yan (The Senate is standing firm that after the third reading there should be no more corrections),” he said.
THE DUST SETTLES
The House of Representatives under the leadership of new Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco was able get the job done days after taking the helm from Taguig-Pateros Rep. Peter Cayetano, who was unseated last week after 186 lawmakers voted to install Velasco as their new leader.
Administration lawmakers said the new House leadership is off to a great start after passing last Friday two measures that were certified as urgent by Duterte: the proposed P4.506 trillion proposed national budget for 2021 and the bill granting the Chief Executive anti-red tape powers.
“The performance of the new leadership during special session was very commendable.
This is a very encouraging sign in our mission to approve the legislative agenda of President Duterte. The Velasco-Romualdez (majority leader Martin Romualdez) leadership got off to a good start,” said Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr.
Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas lauded his colleagues for setting aside their political differences and uniting to approve the two important measures in the wake of the speakership fight between Velasco and Cayetano.
“The dust has settled and it’s nice to see that everyone has gone back to business which is legislation,” said the lawmaker, a vice chair of the House committee on appropriations. “We owe the swift approval of these priority measures to the calm and steady hand of our Speaker. The House members are now upbeat and inspired with the energetic and inclusive leadership of Speaker Lord Velasco.”
Vargas said the country needs a budget that would respond to the people’s needs during the pandemic and bring the economy back on the path to growth while at the same time ensuring “greater efficiency and transparency in government.”
“The House under the leadership of Speaker Velasco is fully behind our President in meeting these goals,” said the lawmaker.
San Jose del Monte City Rep. Florida Robes said she was “extremely delighted that the leadership impasse in the House of Representatives had been resolved peacefully and amicably by our two honorable leaders, Lord Alan Velasco and former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.”
“I look forward to a renewed, more united and inclusive leadership at the House of Representatives led by Speaker Velasco with Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.
I believe that Speaker Velasco and Majority Leader Romualdez are both righteous and committed to steer the House of Representatives to new heights to become a more effective and responsive institution to serve the Filipino people especially in these trying times,” she said.
The House leadership said it also committed to approve the amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001 under House Bill No. 6174 to address concerns on our anti-money laundering law.
“Cognizant of the importance to put in place more stringent provisions in AMLA, the House will see to it that the measure which aims to curb the cost of doing financial transactions of our overseas Filipino workers and the business sector, will be approved expeditiously once plenary sessions resume next month,” Velasco said in a statement.
The House had already approved the proposed Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer or FIST Act on third and final reading by the larger chamber last June.
“The House of Representatives will ensure that President Duterte will be able to sign these important pieces of legislation into law at the soonest possible time,” Velasco said
LAKAS GETS STONGER
Romualdez said the strength of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) has grown to 42 at the House – 21 district congressmen and 21 party-list allies
The majority leader, the president of the party which was among those that elected Velasco last week, announced the addition of Quezon City Rep. Anthony Peter “Onyx” D. Crisologo who took his oath as party member on Friday night at the majority Leader’s office and Zamboanga City Rep. Manuel Jose M. Dalipe who took his oath as Lakas-CMD member last September 15 and did another ceremonial oath-taking before Romualdez last Thursday.
Before transferring to the Lakas-CMD, Dalipe was a former member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and Crisologo came from the National Unity Party (NUP).
As part of the administration’s coalition party, Romualdez reiterated Lakas-CMD’s commitment to support the passage of President’s legislative agenda.
“Welcome to the ever growing Lakas-CMD party. This is in line with our commitment to strengthen Lakas-CMD’s political influence nationwide and help President Duterte pass the remaining legislative agenda of his administration and ensure that genuine reforms are implemented in the last 20 months of his administration,” Romualdez said. – With Wendell Vigilia