TWO senior lawmakers have defended the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) that the House of Representatives approved on final reading and transmitted to the Senate, saying it was legal and aboveboard.

“As far as we’re concerned we don’t see anything irregular nor negative on it,” Deputy Speaker and Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Rep. Joselito “Lito” Atienza said during the weekly Ugnayan sa Batasan forum.

Atienza said the House merely performed its function of reviewing and passing a budget that is responsive to the needs of the country and its people amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“Kaya sa batas, ang budget dumaan muna sa Lower House, tapos ipanhik sa Upper House— the purpose of which is precisely for the Senate to scrutinize and make their own observations on how the budget should have been formed. Normal lang yun na meron silang gustong baguhin,” Atienza explained.

Atienza, however, said the 2021 GAB transmitted by the lower chamber was largely untouched since the previous House leadership.

“I’m not putting the blame on him. All I’m saying is tingnan natin from the proper perspective para ma-appreciate natin ang anumang kalagayan. And for the senators to take note of certain observations, that’s good. We’re happy about that. Mabuti naman para magkaroon ng check and balance,” said Atienza.

In the same media forum, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said the budget transmitted by Congress was essentially “the President’s budget.

Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, said the House members knew for fact that what they have approved was an “essentially a pandemic recovery budget.”

“Alam din naman ng mga congressman ‘yung mga specific or unique needs ng kanilang mga constituents,” Salceda added.

Salceda and Atienza agreed that the upcoming bicameral conference should iron out whatever differences the House and the Senate might have regarding the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget.

“Kaya nga po may bicam at dun mapapag-usapan kung ‘yung obserbasyon nila ay tama,” added Salceda.

Atienza expressed confidence that all issues surrounding the 2021 spending plan will be threshed out in the bicam.