SENIOR Deputy Speaker and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador “Doy” Leachon on Wednesday insisted that the P20 billion institutional amendments were mere “corrections of style and errata” and not actual or “literal” changes after the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021 was approved on third and final reading last Friday.
Leachon explained that the small committee chaired by House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez did not introduce amendments to the national budget following its approval.
“They are more in the way of 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,” Leachon, a member of the small committee, explained after Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson questioned the move of the House of Representatives allowing the Executive branch to insert “errata” into the national budget.
“Due to lack of material time and (in) the interest of expediency, particularly so that we’re limited in a period stated in Proclamation 1027, 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,” Leachon explainedin reply to Lacson’s argument that the small committee’s act of introducing “institutional amendments” into the 2021 national budget was unconstitutional.
Lacson explained that changes are not allowed to the national budget after the House of Representatives approved the appropriations bill on third and final reading.
“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,” Leachon, said.
“We perfectly agree with Senator Lacson on this issue. We all want to have the next annual national budget that is free from constitutional attack. Apart from the objective as enunciated by Speaker [Lord Allan] Velasco, that is — Ito ang budget para sa bayan.!” Leachon stressed.
“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.
Earlier, Velasco declared there is no pork barrel in the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget, making it legal and constitutional.
“Let me assure you that there is no pork in the budget,” Velasco said.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, a member of the small committee, said the small group agreed to consider only institutional amendments and departmental errata and accommodate individual amendments during the bicameral conference committee.
The soft copy of the 3rd reading version of the 2021 national budget containing the P20 billion institutional amendments made by the small committee as disclosed by Salceda will be transmitted to the Senate on October 28.
Members of the small committee under Romualdez are Leachon, Salceda, House appropriations chairman and ACT-CIS party-list Eric Yap, Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit, Bataan Rep. Jose Enrique Garcia, Batangas Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain, House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera, AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, House Deputy Majority Leader and Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma, Samar Rep. Edgar Marie Sarmiento, Marikina City Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.
The small committee, according to Salceda, also agreed to make the following institutional amendments: Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), P400 million; Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), P100 million; DoH, P10.5 that will be allocated to Health Facility Enhancement Program with P2 billion, P300 million to Mental Health and P5.5 billion to COVID-19 vaccine; Department of Labor and Employment’s (DoLE) Tupad, P4 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Assistance to Families Affected by the Pandemic, P2 billion; Department of Education’s (DepEd) Support to Teachers on Connectivity, P1.7 billion; Department of Interior and Local Government-Philippine National Police’s (DILG-PNP) Mobile Vehicle for Quick Response, P2 billion; and Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Procurement of Aircraft (C-130), P2 billion.