Opposition lawmakers: Why 'rush' budget debate in the House?
MANILA, Philippines – Don’t let go of the power over appropriations.
Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday, August 29, questioned the lower House's attempt to rush the passage of the proposed 2018 national budget, supposedly cutting short scheduled plenary debates.
“We are afraid that the General Appropriations Bill or Act will even be a replica of the National Expenditure Program…. Look at what’s going happen this coming week. The plenary debates have been reduced to 5 days,” said Albay 2nd District Representative Edcel Lagman, a Liberal Party member who belongs to the opposition bloc.
The National Expenditure Program is prepared by the budget department, and is submitted to the House for scrutiny. The budget measure emanates from the lower chamber, and passed on to the Senate, before it is approved in the bicameral conference committee.
For 2018, the national government is proposing a budget of P3.767 trillion – an amount 12.4% higher than the 2017 national budget and 21.6% of the gross domestic product.
The House appropriations committee last week wrapped up committee briefings on the budgets of various departments and agencies. The budget is currently being tackled during pre-plenary hearings. It will be discussed before the plenary – or the House as a whole – by September 4.
Lagman said that, “based on the calendar,” the House plenary should have until September 8 to discuss the budget.
“We don’t understand the rush,” said Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin.
“The power of the House over the appropriations measure [over] what we call the supremacy of the House, I think, has been lost, it’s a lost prerogative. It’s a challenge to the present leadership of the House, or the committee on appropriations, to capture the plenary power of the House on appropriations,” added Lagman.
He noted that the House “supermajority” typically “accedes to the demands of the executive.”
Committee chairman and Davao 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles brushed off Lagman and Villarin’s allegations. He said the “3 layers of budget discussions” in itself was a good exercise of the power of the purse.
Still, Nograles expected plenary debates to last shorter than in 2016, the first time the Duterte administration proposed a budget.
“Last year, we were able to complete plenary debates in 7 days, considering that it was the new President's maiden budget. This year, this being President Duterte's second budget, perhaps we can finish this in 5 days,” he said.
Lagman chided the apparent rush, quipping: “The objective is, again, to set a record.”
Pre-plenary budget conferences are scheduled from August 29 to September 8. The committee has yet to release a schedule for the plenary debates. – Rappler.com