House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. (1st District, Camarines Sur) on Monday advised Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno to stop dictating to Congress when they should hold or pass the budget.
“We have the constitutional prerogative as to when we will pass the budget while he has the legal duty to implement the salary increase,” Andaya said in a press briefing.
Andaya said there is a constitutional provision which says that if Congress fails to pass the budget the following year, “we will have what you call a reenacted budget”.
Andaya said they have filed a class suit representing civil servants before the Supreme Court to compel Diokno to implement the fourth tranche on pay hikes for government workers.
Diokno has been quoted that Congress should first pass the 2019 budget before the salary increases provided under Executive Order No. 201 signed by former President Benigno Aquino III can be implemented.
Andaya likewise clarified the impression that pending the approval of the 2019 budget, there is no budget for government expenditures.
“Let me correct the statement na wala tayong budget. May budget tayo ngayon and it is called reenacted budget. And that budget is even bigger than this year’s proposed budget,” he said.
Andaya further said, “So, kung mas malaki yung panggastos mo ngayon kesa dun sa hinihingi mo, bakit di mo maibibigay yun”, referring to Diokno and the stalled pay hikes.
“At hindi lang yun, kapipirma lang ng ating Pangulo nung Christmas break yung pag extend ng buhay ng 2018 budget, so bale dalawa na ang pangkukunan natin ng panggastos sa kasalukuyan – yung reenacted budget at yung savings nung nakaraang taong budget, so sobra-sobra na ang hinihingi,” he said.
He explained that “yung specific item na pagkukuhanan is the miscellaneous personnel benefits fund”.
“Nung nakaraang taon, 100 billion ang nakapapaloob dun. Ang hinihingi nila this year is only 50 (billion) so doble nga eh. So mas marami pa ang panggastos mo ngayon kesa sa hinihingi mo. So hindi ko maintindihan hindi nila makuha ,” Andaya remarked.
On the other hand, Andaya also said he will meet with Senator Miguel Zubiri to take up the Road Board issue.
“They want to have an idea what the plans of the House are on what to do with the Road Board,” he said.
Andaya said he was in Camarines Sur when President Duterte gave a pronouncement hat he wanted the funds of the Road Board to be used for the budget (GAA) and use it specifically to repair areas damaged by the typhoon.
“Now this kind of a statement requires a certain amount of work. It’s not just coming together as a bicam and agreeing to it,” he said.
“Unang-una, wala yun sa version naming dalawa (House and Senate). Yun ang pag-uusapan whether we agree to change both our versions and come up with a common version in accordance with the wishes of the President. Secondly, if he wants to put in the GAA, it only means that we will not only abolish the Road Board but also abolish the special account in the general fund where these funds are deposited,” Andaya explained.
He said that once that account has been deactivated and now put in the general fund, Congress is faced with the situation on how to put that fund in the budget.
“In the Constitution, we cannot increase the budget proposal of the Executive. We can only decrease, we cannot increase,” Andaya said.
He said with the President saying he wants that as part of the GAA, it only means that the DBM has to come to the House of Representatives first and submit a supplemental budget on how these funds will be used.
Andaya also confirmed that there will be a bicam for the Road Board abolition as the bill presented by both Houses is totally opposite of what the President wants.
“As proposed now, it cannot be used for repairs of damaged areas. It can only be used for garbage collection,” he said.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez who also came with Andaya to the press conference explained that the Road Board law was conceptualized and crafted with the purpose of giving additional funds to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for bridges and roads.
Suarez, who crafted the law, said the special funds cannot just be used for other purposes.
Andaya said the Road Board in itself is just a governing body.
“It has nothing to do with the account. Even if you take out the Road Board persons running the show, the account is still frozen or is still controlled by certain conditions before you use it. You have to do both,” he clarified.
He said it is not only removing the Road Board as a governing body but likewise deactivating the special account in which the monies are deposited and then putting it in the general fund.
Andaya said there is a need for a new law for this.