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Congress’ failure to pass 2019 budget decried

Salvador Panelo
Salvador Panelo

Malacañang expressed yesterday disappointment over the failure of Congress to pass the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 before the end of the year.

“We submitted the budget on the first day [of the 30 days within which to submit after the State of the Nation Address in July]. We are of course disappointed that it did not pass as expected,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in his regular briefing.

The Palace’s hopes to pass the budget on time faded after President Rodrigo Duterte decided not to call for a special session to expedite the passage of the spending bill at the request of the Senate.

“Senate members told the President through, I think [Budget] Secretary [Benjamin] Diokno, that it’s physically impossible for them to hold a session because it ended yesterday [Thursday] and I suppose there’s so many activities that will involve the attention, the presence of all members of Congress,” Panelo said.

“So in deference to that, the President is not calling [for a] special session.”

Discussions on the proposed new appropriations were also marred by allegations of “insertions” to fund more public works projects, which Diokno has denied.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives adjourned sessions for a holiday break without passing the 2019 budget bill. Sessions will resume on January 14, 2019.

“I suppose when they convene [on] the first week of January, they will be tackling that [budget],” Panelo said.

Since Congress failed to pass the budget for next year, the government would have to operate under a reenacted budget, which means running on 2018’s P3.767 trillion budget early 2019 or until the budget bill is passed.

Operating on a reenacted budget also means that the government cannot fund programs appropriated for next year as it will have to operate on the same general appropriations as this year.

“They have their own reasons why there was a delay in the approval of the budget. What is important to us is that, we did our duty and the failure is not on our part but on them,” Panelo said.

It is the first time in eight years that the national budget failed to pass on time.