Sen. Sotto Backs Presidential Veto Of Entire 2019 Budget

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday said he will support a presidential veto of the entire PHP3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.

Sotto was reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to veto the entire 2019 budget if his legal team finds irregularities in the bill.

“Actually, if there is indeed pork barrel in the budget, a reenacted budget erases all that,” Sotto said.

“Everything is left to the discretion of the executive department. I will support the President’s decision, anyway, we can pass a new one in the next Congress with new leaders,” Sotto said.

Sotto said vetoing the budget was his original suggestion after discovering the alleged “illegal realignments” made by the House of Representatives.

He noted that lawmakers, whose terms were about to end and were involved in the illegal realignments, will stand to lose all their “pork” if the national budget is vetoed.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said the President is well within his legal authority to veto in whole or in parts the enrolled budget if he and his economic team see it “wise” to do so.

Lacson said the 2019 national budget had been subjected to “abuse and indiscretions” by some legislators from both chambers of Congress, noting that the House leadership even went “beyond the mandate of the law and time-honored practice.”

“At the end of the day, it is greed and insatiability of those who cannot control their appetite for more and more ‘pork’ and all the perks and commissions that go with it,” Lacson said.

Lacson said he is prepared to “fight the next battle” when the National Expenditure Program for the 2020 national budget is submitted by the President at the opening of the first regular session of the 18th Congress.

“It is tiring and frustrating, but I am always ready and able to fight another day for my career-long advocacy as an elected Senator of the Republic—that of fighting corruption, particularly in the authorization phase of the budgeting process,” Lacson said.

On the other hand, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said the country would survive a year without a budget by operating under a reenacted budget.

“Vetoing this year’s entire budget can also be the executive’s way of saying to Congress to ‘get your act together’,” Pimentel said.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian warned that the possible veto of the entire budget would lead to a slower economic growth and delay in the key infrastructure projects of the government.

“There can be no winners here if ever President Rodrigo Duterte decides to veto the 2019 budget,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian cited that the country’s gross domestic product for 2019 may slow down to 5.6 percent from the original forecast of 6.7 percent—equivalent to a loss of PHP94.25 billion—under a full-year reenacted budget.

He said delays of key infrastructure projects will mean lesser available jobs, while the social safety programs like the Unconditional Cash Transfer given to the poorest of poor Filipinos will be adversely affected as well.

“Given the immense adverse impact of a reenacted budget on our economy, I hope the President would exercise his power to line veto illegal items in the budget instead of vetoing the entire GAB (General Appropriations Bill),” Gatchalian said. (PNA)

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