The meeting of lawmakers with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte failed to resolve the conflict of the House of Representatives and the Senate regarding the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri revealed that the members of the two legislative members had dialogue but failed to arrive at a consensus on the proposed P3.757 trillion annual budget.
“The president had asked us to pass the budget so that the programs of government can continue. We still met while the president had left but there’s still no consensus, unfortunately,” Zubiri said as reported by ABS-CBN News.
The impasse was centered on the Senate’s stand to pass the “ratified version” as opposed to the Lower House’s position “on the line itemization and not lump sum.”
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III explained that Duterte told the legislative leaders in his introductory statement that he will not sign the budget if Sotto refuses to initially do so.
“He opened the dialogue by saying he will not sign the budget if I do not sign it,” Sotto said.
Both sides were then given the chance to express their stand on the issue. According to the Senate president, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson suggested that they should agree on the original bicameral report approved by both chambers.
“After some words from both sides, Sen. Lacson suggested that the HOR recall the enrolled copy they sent and revert back to the bicam report that both houses approved,” Sotto said as reported by CNN Philippines.
“The president and members of the Executive Department concurred. The House of Representatives appeared to have acquiesced but we have yet to see if they will follow the agreement,” Sotto added.
The Senate president clarified that he would only deem the dialogue a success if the lower House would re-submit its proposal as agreed. He further noted: “We have yet to see if they will follow (the) agreement.”
House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro stated that the president ordered lawmakers to “finish the budget in a manner they are comfortable.” He added that both representatives and senators agreed that they will follow the president’s suggestion.
Duterte said in a speech Monday night, March 11, that he would not sign an illegal budget bill.
Among the members of the Senate present were Senators Loren Legarda, Gringo Honasan, and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.
Members of the lower house including House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was there along with House Appropriations Committee Rolando Andaya, and House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro.
The current appropriations bill implemented is the reenacted version of the 2018 annual budget. The P3.757 trillion 2019 budget was delayed over allegations of unnecessary and anomalous pork insertions.