House ends committee hearings on P3.8-trillion 2018 budget
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives finished committee deliberations on the proposed P3.8-trillion budget for 2018, one of many steps before it is finally approved.
In a statement, House appropriations committee chairman Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles said all government agency budget hearings have wrapped up. Plenary debates – or discussions on the departments' budgets before the House as a whole – will be held on September 4.
Congress wants the proposed 2018 budget signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte by November 15, said Nograles. (READ: 'Build, build, build' gets a third of proposed 2018 national budget)
During budget deliberations at the committee level, heads of agencies and other top officials defend their proposed allocations for the coming year and sometimes, bargain for a bigger piece of the pie. It's also typically a chance for lawmakers to grill top officials over their policies and district concerns.
A few hearings stood out during this year's panel deliberations.
Lawmakers threatened to cut the Commission on Elections (Comelec) budget after its chairman, Andres Bautista, skipped the August 23 budget hearing. The same day, an impeachment complaint was filed against him at the House.
Bautista, in the middle of a personal and professional scandal, eventually showed up when the panel rescheduled the Comelec budget hearing.
Lawmakers had the same adverse reaction during the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) budget briefing, when the department's officer-in-charge, Undersecretary Catalino Cuy, and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa were nowhere to be found. The two top officials were in Ozamiz City to join Duterte as he spoke to local police.
The DILG budget briefing came a day after 17-year-old Kian delos Santos was killed during a drug raid in Caloocan City. Delos Santos was accused by police of being a drug runner – a claim they apparently "validated" through social media after his death. But CCTV footage, witnesses' testimonies, and initial investigations have revealed otherwise.
Delos Santos’ death sparked outrage online and offline, amplifying allegations that police have been breaking the law in the name of the drug war. Over P900 million of the PNP's proposed 2018 budget will be used for Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded, the official umbrella term for the war on drugs.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) also asked for another P53.12 billion on top of its proposed P60.63-billion budget for 2018, meant for the construction of farm-to-market roads.
Among the House appropriation committee's biggest challenges is finding money to fund a landmark law that makes tuition and other fees free for students of government-run universities, colleges, and similar institutions. (READ: Funds from DICT, DAR, DOTr eyed for use in free tuition law)
Pre-plenary hearings for the various departments and agencies are still ongoing.
Once the House passes the budget, it will be transmitted to the Senate before the end of September. – Rappler.com