Press Release
April 9, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today expressed dismay over the excessive delay in the approval of the 2006 trillion national budget which may force the government to rely on the reenacted 2005 budget for entire current year.

Pimentel said the original legislative calendar called for the House of Representatives passage of proposed P1.05 trillion budget last October and its forwarding to the Senate in mid-November so that the appropriations measure could be approved by Congress before adjourning in December.

The House passed the budget bill on third and final reading only on the eve of the adjournment of Congress last Wednesday (April 5) for the Lenten break.

Pimentel voiced his chagrin over Malacañang s call for the Senate to expedite approval of the budget after the House delayed the passage of the bill for nearly five months.

It looks as if they want to make it appear that if we do not yet have an approved budget by now, that is the fault of the Senate. Thats unfair, he said.

Pimentel said the Senate, at his suggestion, converted itself into a committee of the whole that conducted daily hearings on the appropriations of various government agencies in anticipation of the transmittal of the budget bill to the Senate in mid-November and in the hope of approving the bill before the end of fiscal year 2005.

The minority leader pointed out that the 2006 General Appropriations bill that was passed by the House has not yet been officially transmitted to the Senate up to now.

Pimentel lamented that while the budget bill has stayed in the House for more than seven months starting from Aug. 25, 2005 the Senate is given only about a month to act on the measure.

Its simply sickening that the House approved the budget only when we were about to adjourn and go on recess and therefore could not act on the measure as we had wanted to, he said.

Pimentel said it is President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies in the House of Representatives who should be blamed for the inordinate delay in the enactment of the 2006 national budget.

He accused the President and her legislative allies of maneuvering to derail the approval of the budget, resulting in the automatic reenactment of last years P900 billion budget effective Jan. 1, 2006.

Pimentel said no less than Sen. Manuel Villar, chairman of the Senate finance committee, has charged that the Houses footdragging on the budget bill was deliberate.

He said a reenacted 2005 budget would virtually become a presidential pork barrel, in which Mrs. Arroyo will have the full discretion on how to release on reallocated funds for projects already completed during the previous year.

The President will be free to realign billions of pesos under the reenacted budget euphemistically called savings to projects or activities that catch her fancy. That is why they are saying there is money for the plebiscite on Charter amendments even if no funds are allocated under the 2006 national budget for such political exercises, Pimentel said.

Pimentel said he has advised his staff to secure a copy of the House-approved budget bill and scrutinize the measure while Congress is in recess.

He cautioned the Senate against being rushed into approving the budget bill especially because there are hidden items that may have been inserted by the House which should be fully reviewed by the senators.

Pimentel said it would be advisable for the Senate finance committee to conduct hearings during the recess after the Holy Week to offset the delay in the submission of the bill to the chamber.

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