Press Release
April 16, 2006

Dont pressure Senate on budget, Drilon tells Palace

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon yesterday told Malacañang not to pressure the Senate on the proposed 2006 budget which was formally submitted to the upper chamber by the House of Representatives just on the day the Congress adjourned for a Holy Week recess.

"Our people know that the House is the cause of the delay in the approval of the national budget. It took the House more than eight months to approve it without any amendment on the Palace version, except for some minor revisions," said Drilon.

"Had the House passed it in November as was done in the past budgets, we could have approved the 2006 budget by December 2005. Now we have only up to June 9 to have the budget approved by both Houses of Congress. But since Congress will resume session only on May 15, we have only actually 16 session days to scrutinize the budget and approve it," Drilon pointed out.

He said it would take a "Herculean effort" by the Senate to fully scrutinize the budget which, as proposed by the House, appropriates more than one trillion pesos for the various departments, offices, commissions and other agencies of the national government.

"We have an obligation to our people to see to it that their hard-earned money, which was raised through taxes and other fees, are prudently and wisely disbursed, so that the benefits will accrue to them directly, and not be diverted to the pockets of bureaucrats and high officials," said Drilon.

"But how can we do that when the Senate is being given only a short period to examine the budget? Was this delay deliberately planned by the Arroyo administration and its allies in the House in order to clip the powers of the Senate and Congress as a whole to prevent it from fully scrutinizing the budget in the spirit of transparency and fiscal responsibility?" Drilon asked.

According to Drilon, "If the Congress fails to pass a budget for 2006, thus automatically reenacting the old budget, the administration would benefit as it would have a huge discretion to dispose of a trillion pesos or 1,000 billion pesos. If Congress also passes the 2006 budget, but without careful and responsible scrutiny, then the administration would be given practically a blank check to dispose of public funds without participation of the Congress, as a whole, especially the Senate."

Drilon said that the failure of the House majority, apparently with the connivance of Malacañang , to submit the budget for the concurrence of the Senate on time, "may have been deliberate in order deprive the Congress of its fundamental power of the purse, which is the duty and authority to raise public funds and appropriate those funds."

Drilon explained that while the Senate, acting as a committee of the whole, had already finished scrutinizing the budget as submitted by Malacanang, even without waiting for the House version, it still needed a lot of time to examine the budget as submitted by the House of Representatives.

Drilon expressed alarm that the delay in the submission of the proposed budget in the House "may be part of an administration scheme to undermine the constitutional powers of Congress so that it could monopolize government power. It has already done this through Executive Decree 464 which prohibits executive officials from appearing before public hearings of the Senate and the House without the Presidents consent."

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