Andaya presses war over budget

Rolando Andaya Jr.

SENATE President Vicente “Tito” Sotto was ill-advised by his lawyers, House appropriations committee chairman Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. said referring to the decision of Sotto to submit to President Rodrigo Duterte the proposed 2019 budget with reservations.

Andaya reminded Sotto that there is no such thing as “conditional signing.”

“The letter he (Sotto) sent to the President expressing his ‘strong reservations’ as annotation in the 2019 National Budget enrolled bill has no legal basis. It is just a personal request, which the President may or may not take heed (of),” Andaya said.

Earlier, Andaya disclosed that it was the Senate who made realignments of the budget amounting to P83 billion, sabotaging the infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration.

The arguments raised by the Senate President in his letter, according to Andaya are completely baseless because the realignments he cited were adjustments authorized by no less than the Bicameral Conference Committee Report, which was approved and signed by the conferees from both chambers.

Andaya sent separate letters to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Acting Secretary Janet Abuel of the Department of Budget and Management in which he said there is no such thing as “conditional signing of an enrolled bill.”

He said the Senate cannot clothe his signature in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill with ambivalence or dissent.

“Signing an enrolled copy of the national budget is a legal act. The imprimatur of the Senate President on the enrolled bill cannot be diminished by his ‘strong reservations’,” which are completely unwarranted,” Andaya said.

“Also, I pointed out that the Senate President cannot interfere with the exercise by President Duterte of his veto power by suggesting what items should be vetoed in an enrolled bill, which bears his signature,” he added.

The Committee Report included a traditional Omnibus Motion, which unequivocally reads: “Technical Staff of the House Committee on Appropriations and Senate Committee on Finance are authorized to effect corrections of typographical, grammatical and printing errors, as well as the necessary adjustments as a consequence of the amendments.”

The Omnibus Motion also explicitly stated: “In case of conflict between the Conference Committee Report and the Printed Copy of the Bill, the latter shall prevail.”

Consequently, Andaya said, the printed House version is completely authorized and compliant with the ratified Bicameral Report.

“It should be underscored that the generic term ‘adjustments’ subsumes realignments and allied modifications. Budget adjustment refers to any addition or reduction made in the budget while budget realignment is the process of adjusting the original budget,” Andaya said.

Likewise, Andaya emphasized that the realignments made by the House did not exceed the expenditure ceilings of respective departments and agencies as approved in the Bicameral Conference Committee Report.

“Thus, our firm position that the adjustments made by the House are not post-ratification realignments as they were expressly authorized by the ratified Bicameral Report,” he said.