Row over budget rages

WHY are the senators afraid of line-item budgeting? House Appropriations Committee Chair Rolando Andaya asked as both Houses remain a deadlock over the 2019 national budget.

Andaya wondered why the senators are insisting on lump-sum budgeting when the line-item system is more transparent and people will see the specific projects to where the budget is allocated.

“It pains me to hear that our senators are standing pat on their decision to go back to lump-sum budgeting rather than adopting the more transparent line-item budgeting for the 2019 General Appropriations Act,” Andaya said.

“The senators suggested that we return to the old-mode of lump-sum budgeting during our meeting with the President last Tuesday night. One of the senators even proposed that we let the President itemize the lump-sum funds for approval in the 2019 GAA, rather than Congress doing such work. I shot down the idea outright, saying lump-sum funds are prone to corruption and are declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court,” Andaya added.

President Rodrigo Duterte did not agree with Senator Lacson’s suggestion because it is not his  work or duty to itemize the programs and projects in the national budget, Andaya said.

But despite the President’s position, Andaya said, the senators are standing firm on their preference for lump-sum budgeting.

Their threat: approve the bicameral conference report with lump-sum funds or suffer the consequences of a reenacted budget.

“Why are the senators so afraid of line-item budgeting, with itemized programs and projects writtten in the national budget for all the people to see? The House position is clear: we want a budget with the hallmarks of transparency and accountability. Kailangang alam ng ating taxpayers kung saan napupunta ang buwis nila para mabantayan nila ang mga programa at proyektong pinondohan sakaling mapirmahan na ng Pangulo ang national budget,” he said.

The bicameral conference report that the Senate and the House approved contained lump-sum funds.

“This is the document ratified by the Senate and the House. It is up to each chamber to itemize the lump sum funds contained in the bicameral report before sending the enrolled copy of the General Appropriations Bill to the President’,” he said.

As agreed during the bicam, the House itemized the lump-sum funds after it was ratified in the plenary.

Andaya noted that this has been the practice ever since and there’s nothing unconstitutional, illegal or irregular about it.

Andaya reported that their last day for itemization is on March 3.

In fact, Andaya disclosed that the Senate did the same and sent their “realignments” to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee beginning February 11, three days after it was ratified in the plenary. The last day that the Senate wrapped up the realignments: March 7.

“Nauna pang natapos ang House of Representatives. Still, nothing unconstitutional, illegal or irregular,” Andaya said.

“Clearly, both chambers adopted the same procedure. If what the House did was illegal, then the Senate is equally guilty. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” he added.

Based on these guidelines, Andaya said, the House leadership made sure allocations were equitably distributed.