Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cleared of budget insertion raps

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

THE chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations yesterday cleared Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the latest claim of Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson that the former President ordered the realignment of P25 million from the budget of the Department of Health (DoH) for her “favored” congressmen.

Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr., the appropriations panel chairman, pointed out that “the Senate President and the Speaker are not directly involved in the bicameral committee discussion.”

“Responsibility rests on the Bicam conferees,” said Andaya in denying the latest tirade of Lacson against Arroyo who allegedly directed the realignments of funds even after the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget was ratified by Congress.

Andaya asked Sen. Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate committee on finance, to hold a joint press conference aimed at promoting transparency in the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget following Lacson’s statement.

“To clear the air, I suggest that the chair of the Senate finance committee and the House Committee on Appropriations hold a joint press conference to identify each and every amendment made in the 2019 GAA (General Appropriations Act). After all, transparency and accountability is the name of the game,” said Andaya.

After calling the Speaker, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Arroyo denied Lacson’s statement.

Andaya explained that the national budget is a product of both the Senate and the House of Representatives and “I believe that we follow the same rules and procedures in crafting the national budget.

Meanwhile Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, a vice chairman of the House appropriations committee, urged the House leadership to address the undue delay in the transmittal of the Congress-approved 2019 national budget to avoid suspicions of manipulations.

Villafuerte said that the longer the delay in the transmittal of the budget bill, the longer the period that the government would have to continue operating on a reenacted 2018 budget, which, in turn, means further holding up the implementation of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s  “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure projects and other priority initiatives meant to spur growth, attack poverty and improve the quality and delivery of basic services to the people.

But Andaya explained that “the House is itemizing the appropriations therein, fleshing out lump-sum funds, without departing from the approved specifications of the House-Senate approved budget, and by so doing make the budget more transparent and easy to scrutinize.“

“If the procedure being undertaken by the House is illegal, then the Senate is equally guilty if on its part it had itemized the pet amendments on the budget by the senators. We have been insisting to our friends in the Senate to fully disclose the authorship and details of the Senate amendments to the budget,” he added.