House small panel creation defended

September 29, 2019

HOUSE leaders on Sunday said the creation of a small committee, which is tasked to accept and reject all the institutional and individual amendments to next year’s 2020 P4.1 trillion national budget, is valid, legal and constitutional.

Deputy Speaker and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II said there is nothing irregular in the creation of a small committee to process individual amendments afterthe passage of the national budget on third and final reading last September 20. Gonzales pointed out that the Constitution allows the plenary to approve the budget and sets procedures to ensure its swift passage and guarantee that the programs of the government are prioritized over the parochial concerns of 300 House members.

“The plenary has the power to create and task the small committee despite the budget approval to process some adjustments it deemed necessary. The small panel helps us not to go through the rigors of individual amendments of every congressman. It is not only valid, legal and constitutional, it is also practical and judicious to safeguard the national programs by regulating parochial concerns,” Gonzales stressed.

“The budget deliberation is a class of its own, it is a continuing process and the Constitution does not tell us how to approve the bills on first, second and third readings. We adopt our own rules to make it responsive and output-oriented. Imagines if you allow 300 lawmakers to introduce amendments in the plenary, do you think we can still approve the national budget? They will also introduce more parochial concerns because we have constituents to serve. The small committee is there to accept and reject the individual amendments for inclusion in the printed copy of the national budget,” Gonzales explained.

Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero said the P9.5 billion institutional amendments or realignments were additional budget to several agencies to implement President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s priority programs.

“We don’t see anything wrong with increasing the palay procurement fund by P3 billion to P10 billion to help our farmers, whose produce is being bought at record low levels. We are hoping the additional money could boost the buying price for palay to the benefit of our farmers,” said Romero, president of the 54-strong Party-list  Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI).

Romero also explained that the P200 million will go to the Department of Health (DOH) to address polio outbreak and the continuing threat of dengue, and a huge part of P500 million augmentation fund for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) will be allocated to assist the indigent patients.

“I don’t think anyone could argue against or oppose those augmentations, whose intended beneficiaries are mostly our poor people,” said Romero.

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said “delegating to a small committee some of the duties that the plenary could otherwise perform is a practice that has been done in the past years, as far back as the 8th Congress, when the House deliberates on the GAB (General Appropriations Bill).”