#PingSays: House ‘blinks’ on budget row | March 18, 2019

In an interview at the sidelines of the groundbreaking of the new Senate building, Sen. Lacson discloses the House has agreed to recall its version of the 2019 budget with post-ratification tweaks. Other topics in the interview included:
* Rep Andaya accusation that Senate removed P17B from the DPWH RROW budget
* timeline for the New Senate building

Quotes from the interview…

On the House agreeing to withdraw its version of the 2019 budget:

“I don’t want to preempt the House but yesterday I received a call from Rep Zamora. He said he was assigned by the HOR leadership to negotiate with the Senate counterpart. This happened after the meeting in Malacanang. The following day he gave me a call ang sabi niya baka pwede pagusapan. Ano ang way forward? Sabi ko sa kanya there’s no other way except for the HOR except to recall or withdraw your version of the enrolled bill. Effectively, that’s a mere scrap of paper because the SP has already stated many times hindi niya pipirmahan. So balewala yan. Yesterday he gave me a call and he said meron nang approval ang HOR leadership na ire-recall nila today. And it bears watching if they will really withdraw their version of the enrolled bill today. And then from there we will move forward.”

“Ang suggestion ng Senate is after the recall, necessarily the bicam report as adopted and ratified may mga lump sum yan kasi ito nga ang hindi lang in-itemize kundi ni-realign nila. Enumerate ko, yung P70B naka-park sa DPWH central office; P72B ginalaw from the MFO ng DPWH; P79B ang ni-realign nila from several districts to other districts, and so forth. So hindi pupuwedeng yan ang i-adopt sa enrolled bill kasi post-bicam report ratification ang ginawa nila. So ang mangyayari ngayon is, enrolled bill as ratified. So necessarily may lump sum appropriations, whether it’s P100B or P90B or whatever amount, it’s up the President to veto because unconstitutional ang lump sum. So pag na-veto yan, we go back and discuss among ourselves, saan dadalhin ang vetoed amount na lump sum. And depending on how fast we can reconcile kung saan dadalhin ang lump sum appropriations na ive-veto ng Presidente, we can request the President to call for a special session even for one day and via a joint resolution mag-pass kami ng supplemental budget to discuss or include the vetoed lump sum appropriations. So ganoon kadali kung magkakasundo.”

“Ang nire-request namin dito is mapabilis ang discussion. Ako I’m willing to close one eye to the reality na talagang di papayag ang mga congressmen na walang pork. But it is not to a point na sobra-sobra ang iba to the disadvantage of their own colleagues all 62 of them, na tinanggalan nila. For example 1 district that used to have more than P2B prior to the approval on 2nd reading ng HOR na binago, this is infra only, bumagsak sa P50M. Natural magrereklamo ngayon ang kongresista. And some other congressmen na talagang nawalan. And while other congressmen who supported the Speakership of SGMA, ito naman ang nag-balloon naman to at least P4.5B ang 1 district. This is not to account for the P70B na naka-park sa central office. Remember, if it is parked in the central office, we’ll be hard put to determine saang district napunta yan kasi naka-park. Walang identification yan and only they know kani-kaninong distrito naka-allocate ngayon ang worth P70B of infra projects na naka-park sa central office.”

“Rep. Zamora called me up yesterday, Sunday. Sabi niya ang pinagusapan namin the day after the meeting with the President, ito ang pinagkasunduan nila sa HOR. I have no reason to doubt the words of Rep. Zamora kasi sabi niya nga siya ang pinagkatiwalaan because magkaibigan naman kami to talk to the senators. After clearing it with the SP na may ganoong negotiations, he gave me the go signal to proceed. So yan ang resulta yesterday. But it bears watching today if today they will really withdraw their version of the enrolled bill. If they do not, we don’t have an enrolled bill, and we won’t have any national budget until August, when the leadership of the HOR changes.”

“Basta ang sinabi niya, kung di today, tomorrow. But sabi niya Monday, today, tomorrow. Walang ibang interpretation sa akin ang tomorrow from Sunday kundi Monday. Sabi niya tomorrow we will withdraw. Sabi ko that’s a good first move. From there yan ang way forward.”

On a supplemental budget:

“When we pass a supplemental budget, that’s a supplemental budget that can be enrolled and transmitted to the OP. it’s up to the President to line-item veto. At least wala nang constitutional issue na post-ratification ang realignment. Kasi nga supplemental na.”

“A: Let’s see kung may lump sum doon at meron doong grave abuse of discretion and then post-enactment, may violation pa rin sa Constitution. But I hope and I would like to think na hindi iva-violate ang ruling.”

“Magkakaroon ng supplemental budget via joint resolution of Congress. Ang Senate and HOR may mga inputs doon how to go about disaggregating the lump sum appropriations, whatever amount it is.”

On the biggest realignments in the HOR version of the budget:

“Nakita namin doon, on top of the P2.4B I mentioned after the second reading rearrangement, nadagdagan pa uli ng another P2.1B so that’s P4.5B just for 1 district. And God knows how much more meron ang congressman or congresswoman na yan sa naka-park na P70B. Hindi natin alam pa yan. So it could be more than P4.5B.”

“(Sa 2nd district of Pampanga?) Yan ang nakita roon. Ganito. Under the NEP, P767M ang 2nd legislative district. After they formed a mini-committee to revise the approved on 2nd reading report ng HOR under the former Speaker, nag-balloon ang P767M naging P2.4B. And then after the bicam report nang pinresent sa amin ng LBRMO ang kanilang analysis, meron pang nadagdag uli na P2.1B so that’s P4.5B. But we still don’t know how much is she getting from the P70B taken out from 87 district engineering offices, at nai-park sa central office na P70B. Kung meron pa siya roon di ko alam.”

“Nakalagay doon na P2.1B, wala pang disaggregation. But it’s easy to find out kasi hawak pa ng HOR ang disaggregation ng lump sum na sinasabi nila in-itemize nila. DPWH lang ito. We’re talking of sinabi kong P95.1B net increase, P79.7B na hinalukay, P70B na naka-park sa central office, at ang P72.319B na inalis sa MFO ng DPWH. It’s all DPWH. So we’re not yet talking of the other agencies… Hawak pa ni Rep Andaya ang itemization ng lahat ng kanilang allocations.”

On Rep Andaya’s claim that Senate unilaterally removed P17B and this may affect “Build, Build, Build”

“Mali na naman. He better check his figure. Ang natandaan ko when I interpellated on the budget of DPWH and you were there, sila mismo nagkusang-loob tanggalin ang P20B. Sabi nila di namin kailangan kasi meron pa kaming sobra. So it’s not P17B but P20B. And ang P20B hindi unilateral on the part of the Senate kasi mismong DPWH nagkusang-loob na tanggalin yan kasi di namin kailangan yan.”

“Nakasama sa budget ng DPWH. When I interpellated on the issue of right-of-way at meron silang available pang mahigit P20B pa, so ang tanong, meron kayong additional ngayong P29B. Sabi nila pwede nyo tanggalin ang P20B. So mali na naman ang sabi ni Rep Andaya na unilaterally tinanggal ng Senado. Hindi po. Mismong DPWH ang nagpatanggal. Kusang loob nila sabi nila di kailangan. So where the P20B went di natin alam kasi nagkaroon ng maraming realignments after the bicameral ratification.”

On the timeline for the new Senate building:

“On schedule. Ang date ng transfer namin, to start holding our sessions July of 2021. In other words, ang third regular session of the 18th Congress dito na mag-open. Of course 3 towers mauuna, the last tower, the fourth tower, naroon ang structure. Ang fit-out ihahabol but the fourth tower will not affect the functions of the Senate simply because yan ang pang-concession. Pwede pa-rent out sa CA, SET and the like. So walang effect yan.”

“Ang lupa ang bili namin P90,000 per square meter. Hulugan ito 15 years. Ang maganda nito return on investment nito is 15 years, give or take. Kasi sa ngayon ang upa namin sa GSIS, P171M a year. So ang in-occupy namin 44,000 square meters. Dito, 131,500 square meters, 11 floors, and 3 levels ng parking that can accommodate around 1,200 vehicles.”

“After 15 years savings na lahat yan. Wala nang huhulugan. At sarili pa.”

“Ang design nito good for 65 senators. In the meantime na 24 kakalog-kalog kami rito. Malaki ang opisina, malaki ang mga committee hearings. The reason why nagkaroon ng adjustment, because if you recall during the conceptual design competition nasa 4.6 to 4.8B. Nagkaroon ng adjustment for several reasons. First, ang parametric cost of construction nag-increase. At the time P50,000 per square meter ang standard ng DPWH. Now, we’re at P70,000 because of the cost of inflation. Di pa factored ang TRAIN dito pero nag-adjust ang DPWH in 2018, naglabas ng circular P65,000 per square pero ngayon P70,000 na.”

On the contractor of the New Senate building:

“(I)n the course of discussions how to go about the construction, sabi nila ito ang pagkakataon namin to redeem our name because their name was sullied somewhat during the Senate hearings. And maybe it’s a paradox of sorts na Senate building ang gagawin nila. So they have committed and they are swearing to the fact that ito talagang aayusin nila. Ang bilin ko lang sa kanila and even in the presence of DPWH officials, sabi ko, wala kaming ibang requirements dito except ayusin nyo ang trabaho. Walang ibang requirements. And I also told DPWH that. Whatever requirements there are, wala lahat yan. That should be voided, disregard. What we’re after is a Senate building that we can call our own which is iconic, secure, and functional. We’ll be there every step of the way. Sinabi rin namin sa kanila babantayin namin yan. So it can even take them less than the designated timelines na sinabi nila.”


In a separate interview on CNN Philippines, Sen. Lacson said the House of Representatives leadership should resolve the issue among themselves, after Rep Andaya insisted the House has not agreed on anything.