Press Release
January 17, 2006


The Senate minority bloc is demanding speedy approval of the proposed P1.06 trillion national budget to erase the suspicion that it is being converted into a presidential pork barrel to be used by Malacañang to bribe lawmakers in order to fast track Charter Change and foil another impeachment attempt against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) said the minority bloc, during its caucus Monday, reiterated the call on the House of Representatives not to waste precious time and immediately pass the national budget so that the Senate can begin deliberations on the measure.

The group agreed not to take part in the Jan. 24 meeting of the Council of State called by Malacañang .

Pimentel said the seven opposition senators also reaffirmed their stand that they will not back Charter Change since it is only being used by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to neutralize the calls for her resignation and to ensure her political survival.

"There will be no compromise because our position remains the same. We amend the Constitution only after Gloria is gone," he said.

Pimentel said the delay in the enactment of the new budget is tied up with the administration's plan to push Charter Change, and to allow President Arroyo to stay in office with undiminished powers during a so-called transition period from 2007 to 2010.

With the 2005 budget automatically reenacted due to the non-passage of the new general appropriations act, Pimentel said the effect of this is to see funds being re-allocated for projects already implemented and completed last year.

"Projects that are programmed for 2006 cannot be implemented yet, but the available funds can be used for pork barrel projects. In other words, they can use the money to buy the support of members of Congress who want to be bought," he said.

Pimentel also expressed alarm over the calculation of some House leaders that the 2006 budget may not be approved by Congress until May this year.

The minority leader said the administration "is having a nightmare" over the lack of support for Charter Change in the Senate.

Pimentel said the President and top leaders of the ruling Lakas Christian-Muslim Democrats party were taken aback by the absence of any Lakas senator in the meeting of the party's national directorate last Saturday.

"If they cannot get the support from Lakas senators, then how can they convince the senators from other parties to go along with Charter Change?" he said. "It is a clear sign that what they want is not going to happen."

Pimentel said the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes and laws, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, may still proceed with the public hearings on the resolution to amend the Constitution. But he said this is not guarantee that the resolution will be approved.

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