• Senate approves 2014 national budget on final reading

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    THE senate on Tuesday approved the proposed 2014 national budget which is P3.2 billion lower than the P2.268 trillion budget earlier approved by the House of Representatives.

    Voting 16-0 the senate has approved the 2014 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) amounting to P2.263 trillion and will be scheduled for deliberation in the congressional bicameral conference committee once the Senate committee on finance acts on all the individual amendments that will be submitted by the senators.

    The senate version of the budget is lower than the approved version of the House of representatives because deletion of the P3.2 billion which represents that priority development assistance fund (PDAF) of 15 senators and of vice president Jejomar Binay.

    Senators who gave up their PDAF were Senators Cynthia Villar, Serge Osmeña 3rd, Loren Legarda, Juan Edgardo Angara, Francis Escudero, Grace Poe, Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, Vicente Sotto 3rd, Nancy Binay, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Gregorio Honasan, Teofisto Guingona, Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate President Franklin Drilon.

    Other senators meanwhile decided to realign their allocation to Calamity funds, Education and Health.

    Drilon however made it clear that the decision of other senators to realign their PDAF is not a violation of the ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) declaring the pork barrel system unconstitutional since the move was done before the enactment of the GAA.

    The move of the senate to pass the budget on final reading without tackling, on the floor, the individual amendments is not new and according to Drilon a similar motion was carried by the senate in 1992.

    According to Drilon the chamber has authorized the Finance committee headed by Escudero to act on individual amendment that will be submitted by the senators by Wednesday afternoon.

    “This will be transparent because the committee chair is required to submit, to all the members of the senate, the individual amendment which will be accepted and which will be carried to the bicameral conference committee.

    But the senate president noted that not all amendments will be accepted by the committee chair.

    He explained that the chamber decided to come up with such kind of set up in order to avoid protracted debates on the individual amendments.

    Drilon added that it was Sotto, the deputy minority leader, was the one who made the proposal on how the chamber would go by the individual amendments. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA

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