#PingSays: On the 2019 budget impasse, and President Duterte’s reported thoughts of ‘stepping down’| Aug. 15, 2018

In an interview, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– the 2019 budget impasse
– President Duterte’s reported thoughts about stepping down or resigning

Quotes from the ambush interview… 

On House of Representatives’ objecting to a cash-based budgeting:
“They’re so open. Sinasabi nila they are protesting the budget cuts especially sa mga projects nila sa districts. The point is, di ba nag-rule na ang SC November 2013 na unconstitutional ang PDAF? So when you talk of projects in their districts, anong ibig sabihin noon? And if it will be the cause magkaroon tayo ng reenacted budget, huwag naman sana dahil ang magsa-suffer pag reenacted ang budget ang buong Pilipinas. Hindi yung distrito, hindi yung probinsya.
“At least they should be discreet with their reasons pero masyadong open. Nagkakaroon ng standoff simply because nagsa-suffer daw nagkaroon ng massive budget cuts at specify pa sa kanilang mga projects sa distrito nila.”

On the Senate’s stand in the budget impasse:
“We have already made our stand in our caucus yesterday that we are supporting and we are unanimous on this, we are supporting the cash-based budget for 2019, if only to avert the possibility of a reenacted budget.”
“Ang experience natin during the time of former PGMA ang pattern is, every time magkakaroon ng election year the following year reenacted ang budget. It happened in 2003, it happened in 2006 para sa 2007, ganoon ang pattern. And we don’t want that to happen because naka-float ang budget. Because lahat appropriated na for certain projects. So kung tapos na ang project, ano mangyayari sa budget natin?”
“Walang realign, paano mo ire-realign, reenacted nga? Pero ang implication is, ang executive kaya gusto ng executive because it’s a whole lump sum budget kasi reenacted. Walang appropriation, walang items in the year to which that budget is intended to be passed. Say in 2019 naka-float.”
“Mas prone sa manipulation kasi parang buong lump sum buong budget ng 2018 magiging lump sum budget for 2019.”
“We have made our position in a caucus yesterday, all-senators caucus, that we are supporting a cash-based over a reenacted budget. I don’t know where it will go from here pero yan ang position ng Senate.”
“We were encouraged yesterday by the finance committee chair to proceed with our committee hearings. But it’s pointless kasi mag-committee hearing at best magiging parang oversight hearing yan. We will ask for documents tapos 2018, 2017 budgets pero we cannot recommend to the plenary, irerekomenda ba namin i-consider sa plenary say for example the budget of DPWH, di namin pwede gawin because we cannot debate it in the plenary kung wala ang House version sa budget.”
“I hope it will come to pass, itong standoff na nangyari. Somehow somewhere dapat sana may resolution. And this should be resolved between Malacanang and the HOR.”
“Ang cash-based budgeting, ang budget reform bill submitted ng DBM sa both houses, if you recall ang HOR passed it already. They are contemplating on recalling or withdrawing. So bakit biglang nagkaroon ng change of heart? Sila una nanguna na ipasa ang Budget reform Bill, kami di pa nakapagsimula ng debates pero ngayon dahil nagbago ang leadership nagbago ang tono ng HOR? Ang masama rito kasi magsa-suffer ang budget. Ang budget, ito lifeline ng PH. Without a clear budget na may mga items na identified for appropriation ano mangyayari sa bansa natin? So I just hope ma-resolve ito.”
“In the first place why did they pass, he is the chair of appropriations. And siya nag-preside sa deliberation ng budget reform bill na submit ng DBM, bakit ngayon iba na tono niya? Minadali nila i-pass eh. Why? I myself am seeking for answers.”
“As a consequence of a cash-based budgeting may epekto yan sa individual pet projects nila. Sabi nila nabawasan eh. So I can only make a guess na kasi pag cash-based di ba putol-putol ang projects, ang popondohan lang na-accomplish o matatapos ang implementation within the fiscal year. So hindi sila makakakuha ng malaking appropriations for their districts. Pag sinabi appropriation for district, ang interpretation ko palagi roon PDAF.”

On whether cash-based is better than obligation-based budgeting:
“It’s not the point. It’s something we have to debate on. Ang cash-based, there’s already a pending bill that was passed by the House and yet to be deliberated on the floor, in the plenary, sa Senate. Pero of course magkakaroon kami ng mga amendments. Hindi en toto kung ano present sa amin ng DBM as a legisiative proposal hook line and sinker susundin. But we will adopt the good points and amend the points we think are not conducive to development.”

On whether Malacanang should step in to break the impasse:
“(I)t’s up to Malacanang because Malacanang ang nag-submit ng NEP at naka-hostage ang NEP kasi suspended ang hearings sa House. Sa Senate we cannot just act, we can conduct committee hearings but we cannot recommend to the plenary anong ma-take up namin sa hearings precisely because appropriation measure yan nag-e-emanate sa House. Anong ipa-pass namin kung wala ang House version ng 2019 GAB?”
“Malacanang should step in. I think they are having some discussions.”
“Kung ayaw ng House anong ipa-pass naming measure because we will rely on the GAB as per House version.”

On PDAF in the budget impasse:
“Walang ibang interpretation eh. When SGMA declared walang maze-zero na congressman under her watch, anong ibig sabihin niyan? Lahat bibigyan. And congressmen, any legislator under the Constitution di kami magimplement ng proyekto, bakit mo bibigyan ng proyekto? Di ba sa lahat na agencies yan?”

On President Duterte’s reported thinking of stepping down or resigning:
“We heard it several times from him, kaya huwag nating interpret ang sinasabi niya literally. I think he was just expressing his exasperation, his frustration over what he saw in the last few weeks, ang corruption sa AFP tapos ibang mga issues involving people very close to him, very vocal naman siya riyan. But whether or not he will make good ang kanyang threat that he is planning to resign, hindi natin alam kung saan nanggagaling. Ako lang sinasabi ko ang pinanggalingan ang kanyang frustration.”

On whether such statement is a sign of weakness:
“No. When he expresses in that manner, basahin na lang natin anong pinaghuhugutan. Nakita natin ang dami niyang frustrations over the past few weeks, past few days. Yang context na lang tingnan natin. Let’s not take it too literally.”

On PRRD’s reported preference of junta over VP Robredo:
“That’s why I asked Lt Gen dela Vega. Binigyan ko siya ng hypothetical situation, what if pag summon siya ng president at (sabihan siya) magsupport ng junta. The answer given was clear enough.”

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