Tag: Senate

On the House’s ‘Early’ Transmittal to the Senate of the P4.5-T Proposed Budget for 2021

Image Courtesy: DBM

Regardless of the constitutional issues involving the House of Representatives’ version of the 2021 budget bill, it is still good that the Senate has enough time to approve our own version, leaving room for the bicameral conference and submission to the President for approval, thus avoiding a re-enacted budget.

Late yesterday afternoon, I submitted my Finance Subcommittee C report covering all the agencies assigned to me as Committee on Finance Vice Chair, in compliance with the Oct. 26 deadline set by the Committee.

However, I based my report on the National Expenditure Program, with a caveat that necessary adjustments will be made once the General Appropriations Bill is transmitted by the House.

Now that the GAB is available as reported, once we get hold of our copy, I’ll make adjustments based on the House version of the budget bill.


📰 Lacson stands ground, says House GAB ‘illegal’ [Tribune]

From The Daily Tribune: In response to a 24 October editorial of the Daily Tribune, Senator Panfilo Lacson’s camp wrote that the legislator is not ready to give the House of Representatives’ version of the General Appropriations Bill the benefit of the doubt regarding the measure being free of pork.

Continue reading “📰 Lacson stands ground, says House GAB ‘illegal’ [Tribune]”

On the House Continuing to Tackle Amendments After Approving the 2021 Budget Bill

Last Oct. 16, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the P4.5-trillion proposed national budget for 2021. Yet as of today, it continues to tackle amendments via the so-called “small group.”

Art. VI, Sec. 26, Paragraph 2 of the 1987 Constitution is unequivocally clear, regardless of where the amendments will come from. Wala namang sinasabi ang Constitution na pag naghahabol ng “errata,” hindi ito applicable: “Upon the last reading of a bill, NO AMENDMENT THERETO SHALL BE ALLOWED, and the vote thereon shall be taken immediately thereafter, and the yeas and nays entered in the Journal.”

The claim of the House Appropriations Committee chair that the “errata” a.k.a. amendments will come from the implementing agencies and not from the individual House members will further muddle an already constitutionally infirm and error-filled budget measure. Why? The authorization part of the four-phase budget process is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress, and the executive should deal only with budget preparation and execution.

No amount of technicalities and sweet-talk maneuvers can correct a flawed budget that is supposed to address the problems and concerns of more than 100 million Filipinos.

It is time that we correct the mindset of the so-called representatives of the people in this regard.


On the House’s Nov. 5 Transmittal of the 2021 Budget Bill to the Senate

If the House of Representatives’ transmittal of the General Appropriations Bill to the Senate will be on Nov. 5 or 6, there is no assurance that we can pass the budget on time and thus avoid a re-enacted budget.

As they have promised the President, they will approve the GAB on third and final reading today, Oct. 16, and it only takes one week to print, so why Nov. 5?

Not only is the delay unacceptable. It is difficult to understand, unless there are plans to amend the bill after the third reading.

That said, the House leadership should be reminded to adhere to Art. VI, Sec. 26 of the Constitution that says: “Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed…xxx

Amid promises of “best efforts” to transmit the budget bill by end-October, if the House still ends up transmitting the bill on Nov. 5, does it mean that the description “House of the People” is all lip service?


On the President’s ‘Option’ to Take a Direct Hand in Resolving the Budget Impasse

It is the President’s option to do whatever is necessary, even taking a “direct” hand in resolving the Speakership issue, with the timely passage of the 2021 national budget as his only consideration. After all, anything that has to do with national interest should involve the President.

This is one credit I would give to the President. As the leader of the coalition of political parties in the House of Representatives, I don’t think there is impropriety if he steps in to resolve the impasse between conflicting groups that are both his allies anyway. A few calls to the leaders of those coalitions can simplify matters.

Having said that, how can the Senate accept a printed copy of an unapproved House version of the budget bill, as proposed by Speaker Cayetano? We can only file a committee report once the General Appropriations Bill is transmitted to us after it has been approved on third and final reading. Why do they have to wait for Nov. 16 to approve the budget on third and final reading? I can’t understand any of this.

Our priority in the Senate remains the same – to pass on time a national budget that will allow us to deal with the effects of the pandemic. This includes scrutinizing the budget bill to make sure huge sums are not lost to incompetence or greed.


#PINGterview: Likely Delay in Passage of 2021 Budget; Sec. Duque’s WHO Post

In an interview with Senate media, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* likely delay in passage of 2021 budget
* Sec. Duque’s new post at the World Health Organization

Continue reading “#PINGterview: Likely Delay in Passage of 2021 Budget; Sec. Duque’s WHO Post”

On the Early Fighting over ‘Pork’ in the 2021 Budget

This early, we are already seeing the ugly effects of “pork.”

More than the possible delay in the passage of the 2021 national budget, any ugly squabble in plenary over the distribution of earmarks a.k.a. “pork” is exactly that – ugly.

When statesmanship goes out the window, our people’s respect towards the legislature as an institution as well as its individual members somehow dissipates.

Any way we look at it, it is sad and lamentable, to say the least.

Having said that, the total amount representing P135 billion covering 5,913 reappropriated items and P396 billion in lump sum appropriations lodged in the central office of the DPWH may need further clarification.

It is basic that once an infra project has started its implementation, it is already obligated. Hence, there can be no partial cash allocation, unless that project is discontinued, cancelled, or terminated. Then, the unused portion of the appropriation becomes savings that may be realigned. Or, if the project is covered by Multi Year Contractual Authority (MYCA), formerly known as MYOA or Multi Year Obligational Authority which is clearly spelled out and provided in the 2020 GAA, the same item can reappear in the succeeding budget year.

We were not born yesterday as far as budgeting is concerned.


May Maliligo sa Kaso! Senate Hearing on Corruption at PhilHealth

Sen. Lacson’s Opening Statement at the Senate Committee of the Whole Hearing on Corruption at PhilHealth:

Sa nakaraang dalawang araw na pagdinig ng komite ng buong Senado na ating isinagawa sa kasalukuyan, buong singkad na maghapon nang parehong araw ng Martes, pinaligiran po tayo ng mga sinungaling at mga manloloko. Sabi nga ng nanay ng kasama nating Senator Grace Poe – “Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw!”

Let me prove what I just said, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues.

Only last week, I asked Fund Management Sector Senior Vice President Renato Limsiaco, Jr., why despite PhilHealth being a withholding tax agent of the BIR, he failed to deduct and withhold from the funds advanced to the private hospitals and other health care institutions the taxes due them under the National Internal Revenue Code.

Continue reading “May Maliligo sa Kaso! Senate Hearing on Corruption at PhilHealth”

Nasaan ang Kaluluwa ng mga Gumagawa Nito? Senate Hearing on Corruption at PhilHealth

Sen. Lacson’s Opening Statement at the Senate Committee of the Whole Hearing on Corruption at PhilHealth:

SP Sotto and I filed SRN 475, later co-authored by almost all the members of this present Senate, after a number of PhilHealth officials, both incumbent or recently resigned, sought our intervention to help them “drain the swamp,” as American politicians would love to say when they see the need to root out corruption.

And for good reason. PhilHealth is a murky, stinking swamp that many of its good and well-meaning people from the officials to their rank-and-file employees want drained, not just of some corrupt but well-entrenched officials who do not seem to run out of malevolent schemes to enrich themselves, but of a deeply rooted, mafia-like syndicate that controls the resources of the corporation, and habitually manipulate its financial records, that even the COA seems helpless in the conduct of their regular audit.

If we look closely enough, the story only revolves around the same cast of characters – a circle of high-ranking officials who manage to hog their seats despite the change of leadership and detailed anomalies that we already unearthed in the past.

Continue reading “Nasaan ang Kaluluwa ng mga Gumagawa Nito? Senate Hearing on Corruption at PhilHealth”

On Corruption at PhilHealth: Mafia Back with a Vengeance

We have witnesses who are willing to testify and detail the pervasive and deep-rooted corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

At the outset, I can say that this new Senate investigation will reveal the same cast of characters, or at least a number of them, that we already exposed in a Senate inquiry in August last year after my “PhilHealth and the Department of Wealth” privilege speech on July 29, 2019.

I would say, the syndicate is back with a vengeance – or at least its core group has never left.

It is revolting to see the PhilHealth mafia very much active and still in control of the already depleted resources of the agency, made worse by blatant manipulation of its financial statements. They must have mastered the art of influence-peddling as they seem to continue to gain access to the “corridors of power.”