MANILA, Philippines – Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman of the opposition bloc on Wednesday, March 20, stood by the constitutionality of the House of Representatives' version of the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019.
"As the leader of the Magnificent 7 opposition bloc in the House of Representatives, I am supporting the House version of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) because I find it completely constitutional and legal," Lagman said on Wednesday, March 20.
He confirmed to Rappler he was part of the 3-man team created by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to end the 2019 budget deadlock with the Senate.
He said the other two members of the team are House committee on appropriations chairperson Rolando Andaya Jr and San Juan City Representative Ronaldo Zamora, whom Arroyo earlier tasked to negotiate with senators.
“I will not support any House action or measure which violates the Constitution and relevant statutes, and the House version is free from any constitutional or legal infirmities. Moreover, the House version of the budget measure is entirely compliant with the ratified bicameral conference committee report,” said Lagman.
House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro expressed optimism that Lagman's participation in the team would finally convince senators to sign the 2019 budget.
"I have high hopes that Cong Edcel Lagman's support will convince the Senate that the position of the House of Representatives is standing on high contitutional and legal grounds," said Castro.
File photos by Rappler
On Tuesday, March 19, the House leadership scrambled to finalize its next move to address the budget impasse, which stemmed from senators' claim that it was unconstitutional for congressmen to itemize lump sum funds in the 2019 budget after the bicameral conference committee report had been ratified by the House and the Senate.
Lagman, a former appropriations panel chair, said he found nothing wrong with the budget itemization after ratifiying the GAB, as the "House did not breach the approved ceilings" in the bicam report.
On Monday, March 18, Zamora said the House had recalled the version of the GAB it sent to the Senate. But the Speaker herself took this back the next day and said the House was not withdrawing its version of the spending bill.
After meeting with several lawmakers on Tuesday, Andaya said the Speaker ordered the creation of the 3-member House team to end the budget deadlock. He said they had given themselves 5 days to complete this task, or until Monday, March 25. (READ: 'Last chance': Andaya presses Senate to sign 2019 budget)
Andaya also said the House secretary-general had been instructed to “physically retrieve the budget books” they sent to senators, but this was not the same as recalling the House version of the GAB.
“We want to make it clear, though. We are not withdrawing or backtracking from our earlier position. We maintain that the House did nothing unconstitutional, illegal, or irregular when we approved and ratified the 2019 GAB in plenary session,” said Andaya.
“We hope that the contingents from the Senate and the House can agree to a common venue for a formal discussion on the issues and not debate on the merits of their position through the media,” he added.