By Ben Rosario
Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has instructed the House of Representatives 2019 budget panel to put an end to the on-going budgetary impasse “as soon as possible”.
Arroyo issued the directive to the Lower House team even as she aired the optimism that the slashed allocation for the country’s hosting of the Southeast Asian Games can be augmented from government savings if needed.
“We’ll end the impasse as soon as possible, that’s my instruction,” Arroyo told reporters during an ambush interview at the 32nd Biennial Convention of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. at the Manila Hotel yesterday.
The instruction was given to a three-man team of congressmen assigned to iron out disagreements on the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act with a Senate counterpart.
The group is composed of Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro; Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, and opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman, former appropriations panel head.
Arroyo denied the accusations by Senate critics that the budget controversy occurred as a result of her intervention.
“I did not micromanage the putting together of the budget. I don’t want to micromanage also their negotiations because the ones who did the budget know what they did and know what their flexibilities are,” she stressed.
The accusation had come from Sen. Panfilo Lacson who had assailed alleged alterations in the budget measure after the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report.
Together with Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Lacson questioned the House decision to itemize lump sum provisions of the budget.
Castro and Andaya chided the senator’s assertion of irregularities committed by the House leadership, saying that the move to itemize was an in keeping with the transparency policy of the Lower House.
“Fred Castro and Nonoy Andaya and Edcel Lagman have already been setting the record straight. They were the ones who worked on the budget not me and they have been setting the record straight,” said Arroyo.
Lagman, leader of the opposition Magnificent 7, backed the House majority in assailing the senator’s accusations, pointing out that the budget bill that was signed by Arroyo was “completely constitutional and legal.”
“I will not support any House action or measure which violates the constitution and relevant statutes, and the House version is free from any constitutional or legal infirmities,” declared Lagman in a press statement.
The Lower House agreed to recall the Arroyo- signed 2019 General Appropriations Bill to give way to discussions on how the two Houses might resolve their differences.
The House team is scheduled to hold talks with its Senate counterpart within the week.
Meanwhile, Arroyo said the allocation for the country’s hosting of the SEA Games has been slashed.
From its original P7.5 billion proposal, the SEA Games funding under the 2019 budget bill stands at P5 billion.
“But you know there’s always the, there’s always the option of augmenting the budget from savings of other components. There’s always that option,” said the speaker.