President Rodrigo Duterte will veto items in the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) known as the “pandemic budget” if he finds “pork barrel” insertions riding the national funds.
This was assured on Tuesday by presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque as he cited the President’s veto of the past budget proposals loaded with line items after the third and final reading at the House of Representatives.
“Last year, we’ve seen the number of items vetoed by the President. Most of them were line items which were not in the original bill approved by the House in the third and final reading,” Roque said.
The House, under the new leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, approved its version of the national budget last week in four days.
That was after the President called for a special session following former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s untimely suspension of the sessions.
Cayetano’s call was viewed by his peers as his attempt to avert the transfer of power of the speakership to Velasco as part of their term-sharing deal brokered by the President. Velasco was elected Speaker Monday last week, a day before the special session for the budget started.
“We finished the budget deliberations in four days,” Velasco shared during Tuesday’s Daily Tribune ‘Straight Talk’ program. “But we needed to work very long hours, even past midnight, to accomplish what the President wanted from the House.
Velasco vowed that the national budget for next year will be free of “pork-barrel.”
Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson warned his House counterparts that any change to the approved version GAB is a violation of the Constitution.
“Well, as a finding of fact, we need to establish that the errata really refers to a typographical error. If not, these will be additional items. Then I would share the view of the senators, because after the third and final reading, no changes should be made in the GAB,” Roque noted.
A small committee was formed by the House to introduce amendments to the bill before transmitting it to the Senate.
Lacson, meanwhile, assured that the Senate has enough time to pass the appropriations measure on time after it received an assurance from the House that it will be submitted on 28 October.
“We will make sure of that (budget’s timely passage), because it’s passed on third and final reading and they promised to transmit it to the Senate on 28 October or one to two days later,” he said.
“So, we have enough time. That’s the reason why we agreed among ourselves to resume session one week earlier. We’re supposed to resume on 16 November. We’re resuming our session on 9 November,” he added.
“I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt because the House has a new leadership. We are not familiar yet with Speaker (Lord Allan) Velasco and Rep. (Eric) Yap. We are the old guards and they are the young Turks,” he said.
Lacson added that the GAB from the House has yet to be compared with the National Expenditures Program submitted by the Executive Department to determine which items have been realigned.
with HANANEEL BORDEY