Palace, budget chief hope for ‘friendlier’ Congress

December 19, 2018
Benjamin Diokno
Benjamin Diokno

MALACANANG and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno yesterday expressed hope the next set of lawmakers that will be elected in May 2019 will be “friendlier” to the administration after the proposed 2019 national budget failed to pass in Congress on time.

“I’m hopeful na hindi na siya mangyayari, kasi there’s going to be a new Congress ‘di ba, may eleksiyon tayo eh. So [after] the midterm, there will be a new Congress, hopefully much friendlier than this one,” Diokno said at a news conference.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo echoed Diokno, saying he was “sure” it will be “friendlier” by next year even as Duterte currently holds majority support in Congress.    

Both the Senate and House of Representatives adjourned sessions for a holiday break without passing the proposed P3.757-trillion budget bill. Sessions will resume on January 14, 2019.

This developed amid allegations of “insertions” to fund more public works projects and government-favored contractor that prompted congressmen to call on President Rodrigo Duterte to fire Diokno. The President and the Cabinet rejected the plea and affirmed their trust and confidence in Diokno.

Asked if the allegations against him may have stemmed from his critical view of the presidency of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Diokno said he was also a critic of the administration of Benigno Aquino III.

A former newspaper columnist, Diokno said there was nothing personal in his criticisms of Arroyo.

“Iyong mga writings ko is based on theory, based on wisdom, etcetera. Walang personalan doon,” Diokno said.

As the Congress failed to pass the budget for next year, the government would have to operate under a reenacted budget, which means running on 2018’s P3.767 trillion budget early 2019 or until the budget bill is passed.

Diokno hopes the new budget will take effect within the first quarter of next year.

Operating on a reenacted budget also means that the government cannot fund programs appropriated for next year as it will have to operate on the same general appropriations as this year.

According to Department of Budget and Management estimates, a reenacted budget would reduce disbursements by around P220 billion by 2019 while the National Economic and Development Authority said it could have a GDP growth impact of -1.1 to -2.3 percent for next year.

Employment will also be reduced by as much as 600,000 jobs in sectors such as construction, public administration and defense, wholesale and retail trade, land transport and education.

It is also estimated that 200,000 to 400,000 individuals could be pushed into poverty as a result of the reenacted budget.