Palace hands off on House budget feud

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2018 02:44 PM

MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday said it will let the House of Representatives sort out its problem involving the P55 billion in alleged “pork”, which triggered bickering between two congressional leaders.

A supposed attempt by House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. to realign some P55 billion in the 2019 national budget put him in a showdown with Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles.

Nograles reportedly had a shouting match with Andaya after the latter reportedly sought the slashing of some P55 billion in the national budget reportedly intended for lawmakers’ pet projects.

The tussle reportedly almost cost Nograles his committee chairmanship, a claim made and then later retracted by Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, the minority leader and one of the closest allies of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said it is leaving to Congress leaders the decision how to fix the deadlock over the budget.

“Malacañang proposed the budget through the NEP (National Expenditure Program). Therefore, we take responsibility for what appears in the NEP. If it is true there are items which were not in the NEP, then we don’t know where it came from. We leave it to the House to do as it deems proper with these items,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

“We respect the constitutional mandate of Congress which has the power of the purse. We have discharged our constitutional function when we submitted the NEP to Congress. It’s the call of Congress how it would change the NEP, subject to the constitutional limitation that it cannot be increased but can be reduced.”

Andaya denied that Arroyo wanted to slash the budget, saying the president’s budget is intact. 

"It was made to appear we are slashing the budget. How can we slash the budget? We haven't even discussed the framework," he said.

"The speaker has no intentions to reduce that amount of budget. Marami kasing insinuations, wala pong balak ang speaker na bawasan ang budget. Ang nais gawin, i-align sa polisiya," he said.

Andaya revealed that around 50 congressmen have come up to Arroyo’s office to complain of projects earmarked for their districts without their knowledge. 

He said they are also looking into complaints from congressmen that as much as P55 billion worth of projects in the 2019 budget that were earmarked without their knowledge.

The budget deliberations are expected to begin Tuesday though it remains unclear how Monday’s disruption will affect their timeline to finish the debates this week.