Aquino hits Arroyo: 'She became Speaker, then budget was reenacted'

CEBU, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III took a swipe at his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, saying the country once again had a reenacted budget after the former president became Speaker. 

In an ambush interview with reporters in Cebu City on Tuesday, March 26, Aquino gave his two cents on the months-long budget deadlock between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“Anim na budget namin, always enacted on time. Dito hindi. Ewan ko, kung nabalik lang si.... May nabalik lang na naging Speaker eh, reenacted na naman ‘yung budget,” said Aquino, who smiled as he alluded to Arroyo. He spoke to reporters after attending the Manindigan Na Democracy Forum at Southwestern University.

(During my 6-year term, the budget was always enacted on time. That’s not the case here. I don’t know, this person returned.... She became Speaker then the budget was reenacted again.)

The 9-year presidency of Arroyo, now Speaker and Pampanga 2nd District congresswoman, was marred by controversies, among them the 3 times that the national budget was reenacted. 

Aquino also pointed out that even if the House boasts a supermajority bloc and there is a good number of administration-allied senators, the 17th Congress still failed to pass the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019 by December 31, 2018. This led to a reenacted budget this year.

“Ano'ng hirap naman kung magkakasama silang lahat, ‘di ba ma-approve na ‘yung budget? Pero buong-buo na sila doon, hindi pa napapa-approve [ang budget]. At nandoon na nga ‘yung mga minus sa bansa dahil hindi nga ma-approve,” said Aquino. 

(If you are all allies, it should be easy to approve the budget, right? But even if they have the numbers, they still couldn’t approve the budget. And that’s where the disadvantage to the country comes in when the budget is not approved on time.)

Until the 2019 budget is signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, all new government projects will be delayed and expansion plans for some key services and programs will be affected. The President even had to sign an executive order allowing the salary hike for government workers, military, and uniformed personnel despite the reenactment of the 2018 national budget. 

Hours before Aquino’s comments on the budget deadlock, lawmakers were finally able to find a compromise on the 2019 budget. The Senate already transmitted the budget bill to Malacañang despite its "strong reservations" on the House’s post-bicameral conference realignments. 

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte may sign the 2019 budget in a matter of days, but only if he thinks it is constitutional. – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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