By Argyll Geducos
After months of operating under a re-enacted budget, President Duterte finally signed on Monday the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA), Malacañang confirmed.
In a text message sent to Malacañang reporters, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said Duterte, however, vetoed, P95.3 billion worth of items in the GAA, among others.
“The President, among others, vetoed 95.3 billion pesos items of appropriations in the Details of DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) Programs/Projects, which are not within the programmed priorities,” he said Monday evening.
In another text message, Medialdea said Duterte vetoed the said provisions not because they were unconstitutional, but simply because they are not part of Duterte’s priority projects.
“No. Not part of the President’s priority projects,” the Palace official said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III lauded President Duterte for the signing of the 2019 national budget, especially his veto of the P95.3-billion items.
He said Duterte’s rejection of the supposed non-priority provisions in the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA), now Republic Act No. 11260, was a victory for Senate whose members have been appealing for the veto of “unconstitutional” realignments by the House of Representatives.
“Hurray, Senate,” Sotto said in a text message sent to reporters Monday night.
It was unclear yet, however, if the P95.3-billion vetoed items included the P75 billion worth of House realignments that Sotto wants to be struck down.
Sotto had earlier accused House leaders of realigning P75 billion of the DPWH’s budget to local infrastructure projects, even after the ratification of the spending bill in the two chambers of Congress.
While he has yet to see the veto message of the President, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the veto is not only the Senate’s win but of all Filipino taxpayers.
“It is a victory for the Filipino taxpayers. Having said that, I would like to personally commend the president and his economic managers for coming up with a ‘pork-free’ national budget,” he said in a statement.
Just last week, the President had threatened to veto the entire budget if there are anomalous provisions in it. Duterte’s warning is rooted from the allegations made by both the Senate and the House of Representatives about insertions made by both houses of Congress.
“Pagka talagang tagilid ‘yan (If it is really problematic), I will outright veto the entire budget,” Duterte threatened.
“Eh hindi magkasundo ang Congress pati ang Senado eh, pati yung mga insertions diyan titignan ko. Pagka tagilid talaga (The House of Representatives and the Senate cannot agree. I will look at even the insertions. If it is really problematic), I will not hesitate to veto the entire budget. Eh ‘di pasensya tayong lahat (Let’s just live with it),” he said then.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo assured that President Duterte will be carefully scrutinizing the 2019 budget worth P3.757 trillion and will not hesitate to exercise his veto power if some provisions are anomalous.
“[The Office of the President] is poring over the details of the document and checking which items therein may be constitutionally infirm or legally unacceptable pursuant to the President’s power and duty to ensure that the law is enforced and the Constitution is free from any violation,” he said earlier.
“As a lawyer and strict enforcer of the rule of law, the President treads cautiously in performing his constitutional duty making sure that before he inks his signature to the document, the latter does not violate our Constitution, as well as related jurisprudence on the matter,” he added.
House Appropriations chair Rolando Andaya Jr. had earlier accused the Senate of cutting down funds for infrastructure projects and realigned them to other items.
Lacson had also alleged that House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo directed the realignments of P25 million from the Department of Health (DOH) for her favored congressmen. (With a report from Vanne P. Terrazola)