Cayetano Sorts Out ‘Issues’ Over 2020 Nat’l Budget Bill

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the issues among lawmakers over the proposed PHP4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 have been “sorted out”.

Cayetano said the lawmakers threshed out any misunderstandings and confusion that have arisen during the budget deliberations following a meeting with House leaders and vice-chairs of the appropriations committee chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab.

Cayetano committed to approve the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) before Congress goes on recess on the first week of October, assuring that its passage will be “transparent” and “pork-free.”

“We assure the public that the budget will be scrutinized but will not be delayed and will be transparent. Pork and parking have no place in the 2020 budget, Cayetano said.

Earlier in the day, Ungab objected to House Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte’s withdrawal of the GAB from the plenary last week, saying it would “derail” the approval of the 2020 national budget.

Ungab said it is “established procedure” to prepare the GAB immediately after submission by the executive department, noting that the printing of the bill at the APO Production Unit and the National Economic and Development Authority is “almost finished”.

“Your proposal to withdraw and amend the General Appropriations Bill for FY 2020 will definitely derail the schedule and approval of the budget. The staff are now all busy preparing for the plenary and pre-plenary deliberations, gathering data and reports requested by members of the House related to the budget,” Ungab said.

“To prepare another set of General Appropriations Bill will require enormous time, efforts and resources that will surely affect or delay the passage of the 2020 Budget,” he added.

Ungab noted that the last day of the briefings of the proposed 2020 budget is on Sept. 6, and the preparation of the committee report will be on September 10.

Plenary deliberations are also scheduled to start on Sept. 12 until Oct. 4, which is the planned approval of the GAB on third and final reading.

“We prepared this schedule of activities in order to approve the 2020 budget on time before our break on October 5,” he said.

Ungab said any alteration of the National Expenditure Program (NEP), which is the version of the revised GAB, will “surely raise doubts on our proceedings” and the House will be questioned on why it will alter the proposed budget prepared by the Executive Department.

“The GAB which is prepared by the Committee Secretariat is a faithful copy of the NEP,” Ungab said.

In a statement on Sunday, Villafuerte said the move to withdraw HB 4228 was a “procedural matter” since budget deliberations have yet to be completed at the time when the bill was filed on first reading.

He said the “premature filing” of the budget bill goes against the commitment of the House leadership to tackle the 2020 GAB in timely fashion and full transparency from the committee to the plenary stages.

“Legislative process must not be done with undue haste or making a mockery of the House’s constitutional power of the purse,” Villafuerte said. (PNA)