Arroyo insists House did nothing unconstitutional under 2019 budget

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo maintained the House of Representatives did nothing illegal under the still-pending national budget for 2019.

The former president turned Pampanga 2nd District congresswoman also said they would never make her ally, President Rodrigo Duterte, sign anything unconstitutional.

"What we can say is that the process that we followed was constitutional. We would never put the President in a position of signing an unconstitutional bill," said Arroyo in a chance interview at the Batasang Pambansa on Monday, March 18.

The Speaker made the statement as the budget deadlock between the House and the Senate continues. The government is still operating on a reenacted budget from 2018 after lawmakers failed to pass the 2019 spending bill by December 31, 2018.

Senators have refused to sign the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for this year after the House itemized lump sum funds under the health facilities budget.

Senators argued it is unconstitutional for the House to distribute its lump sum funds after the budget was already ratified by both chambers.

House committee on appropriations chairperson Rolando Andaya Jr claimed the Senate did the same, although senators denied it. (READ: 'Last chance': Andaya presses Senate to sign 2019 budget)

No less than Duterte met with lawmakers in a bid to end the budget impasse, but the talks led to nowhere. 

Now, Arroyo said the House is leaving it to San Juan City Representative Ronaldo Zamora to negotiate with senators.

Still, the Speaker stands by the House's move to itemize lump sum funds after the ratification of the budget. 

"It's the same process that was done even before I was Speaker, ever since the Supreme Court ruled that lump sums are unconstitutional. We cannot agree to a lump sum allocation," said Arroyo.

The Supreme Court decision from 2013 does not tackle the legality of touching the budget post-ratification, only post-enactment. It did, however, instruct lawmakers to do detailed line-item budgeting for the full appreciation of the President. – 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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