MILLIONS of scholars are in danger of losing their scholarships if the Senate would insist on keeping the lump sum appropriations it wants to stay in the 2019 budget.
This was revealed yesterday by House Deputy Speaker Dante Marcoleta who said that while the Senate is accusing them of making realignments after ratification, it is the Senate that should be asked where it put multi-billon-peso projects of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a press conference, Marcoleta said the Senate had realigned P74 billion in the budget by removing key government programs of the Duterte administration including the funding allocation for the National Greening Program, TESDA scholarships, Right of Way projects of the DPWH and other foreign assisted projects.
“Actually dapat itanong niyo yun sa Senate. For example, out of P74-billion doon sa kanilang ni-realign P2.5 billion sa National Greening Program kinuha nila iyon e. Nawala iyong National Greening Program except for a particular province and I would not tell you what. Iyong P2.5 billion National Greening Program, nawala iyon. Kinuha ng Senado iyon. P3 billion iyong TESDA scholarship. Paano iyong rebel returnees at saka iyong out of school youth at saka iyong mga drug rehab na kinakailangan natin? P3 billion itong nawala na kinuha nila. P11 billion sa DPWH right of way, kinuha nila iyon. So, ano ang mangyayari sa Build-Build-Build kung halimbawa ipambayad mo ng right of way? Iyong sa TPLEX lang na problema hanggang ngayon e hindi nababayaran. Thousands of farmers na nawala iyong kanilang mga sakahan, hindi nababayaran. Itong P11 billion kinuha ng Senate pero hindi nila sinasabi sa inyo iyon. P2.5 billion also sa foreign assisted project, kinuha din nila iyon ng hindi nalalaman ng House,” Marcoleta pointed out.
He added that if there was an entity that committed the realignment, it was the Senate because it placed the budget allocations of those key government programs to other programs not specified.
For the House of Representatives, he noted, members merely identified and itemized the projects which had already been included in the lump sum allocation in the bicameral report.
“Alam mo if we realign some budget, dinagdag dito inalis duon, talagang ganuon e. As long as the aggregate numbers are not altered and modified, ito iyong pinag-usapan. Okay, bicam report ito, naratify, ito iyong numbers. Hindi namin puwedeng galawin iyong aggregate numbers, but we can realign as part of our mandate.
Huwag mo lang babaguhin iyong total. So diskarte ng House of Representatives kung paano namin ire-reprioritize. Trabaho namin iyon. Why would you say that it is unconstitutional? Why would it be irregular?” he said. He stressed that they had asked their Senate counterparts if they can point out an unconstitutional act they committed but they failed to get an answer. “E tinanong na nga namin e. Tinawag namin sila. Which part is unconstitutional here? Which part is irregular there? Ni-realign namin, is it irregular? Find a provision in the Constitution that we violated. Wala naman silang sinasabi,” he said.
“So kapag kami nag-realign kahit itemized, unconstutitional? Pag sila sa Senado, nag-realign at nagbawas ng hindi alam kung saan dinala, okey lang, institutional amendment yun. Mali yun,” he said.
At the end of the day, Marcoleta said, both Chambers should set aside their differences and comply with the President’s request to finalize the budget.
“Kami sa House we have done out part. The Speaker already signed it. Nasa Senate na ang bola. Sila ngayon ang makakapagdecide kung susunod sila sa Presidente para sa bayan o ipipilit pa rin nila ang reenacted budget kahit magpapahirap ito sa bansa,” he said.