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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
Sen. Lacson’s Opening Statement at the Senate Committee of the Whole Hearing on Corruption at PhilHealth:
Sa nakaraang dalawangaraw 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.
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.
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.”