Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, April 11 threatened to veto the entire P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 if found to be problematic.
During a campaign rally in Bacolod City, the president said that the budget has been submitted, but is pending his review.
“Kita mo ‘yung budget. Ang budget kasa-submit lang. I have to sign it pagdating ko. Pagbalik ko pa. Pinag-aralan pa. So ang legal ko magbasa uli. Ngayon pagka talagang tagilid ‘yan, I will outright veto the entire budget (Look at the budget. The budget had just been submitted. I have to sign it when I return [to Manila]. I’m still studying it. So my legal is reviewing it. Not, if there are really irregularities, I will outright veto the entire budget),” Duterte told the audience.
The president emphasized that both the House of Representatives and the Senate have been arguing over the alleged pork insertions in the General Appropriations Bill for 2019 and cannot reach an agreement.
He went on to say that there should be no lapses in the budget that he will sign once he returns. He remained firm on his promise to veto the bill even if everyone would suffer from such a decision.
“Pagka tagilid talaga (If it is really problematic), I will not hesitate to veto the entire budget. Eh ‘di pasensya tayong lahat (We will all suffer),” the president added.
Malacañang initially announced that the appropriations bill will be signed on Monday, April 15. However, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo pushed it to another date after the Holy Week.
“Kinalendar na pero mukhang pinag-aaralan pa eh baka after Holy Week (The budget signing has been calendared already but it seems that it is still being studied, so maybe it will be signed after the Holy Week),” Panelo told reporters.
Panelo announced that the proposed budget would possible lapse into law by April 26. He added that the officials in charge of assessing the country’s budget were prepared to address any possible outcomes with regards to the General Appropriations Bill.
“Our economic managers have contingency plans prepared, responsive to any conceivable event, and they will correspondingly adjust their targets, which include the execution of programs and projects relating to infrastructure as well as the delivery of basic services to the people,” Panelo said.
The spokesperson emphasized that the legal team of Duterte is currently focusing on assessing the 2019 budget before it is signed as law.
“It (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,” Panelo added.
The country is now operating with a 2018 reenacted budget. The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) warned that the 2019 economic growth would slow down to 4.9 to 5.1 percent if the budget is enacted in August and to 4.2 to 4.9 percent if no new spending bill is passed this year.