(UPDATED) WITH the Senate and the Lower House unable to resolve the current bicameral conference deadlock regarding their different versions of the 2006 national budget, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has threatened to use her veto powers to restore the cuts made by the Senate on her proposed P1.053-trillion budget.

Arroyo announced yesterday that she is considering a veto after the Senate slashed P31 billion in suspected pork barrel funds at her disposal in the lump-sum appropriations for the Kilos Asenso Support Fund amounting to P3 billion and Kalayaan Barangay Program Fund worth P3.69 billion.

An Arroyo veto, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. however said, only reinforces the “perception of her dictatorial tendency — her propensity to disregard the constitutional processes, including the exercise by Congress of its power over the purse.”

Even administration senator Ralph Recto found Malacañang’s stance unacceptable, pointing to its belief that the budget is some sort of a “Ten Commandments in spending that you can’t even touch” that is stalling the budget talks.

“When one believes that his or her idea is infallible, then that’s when trouble begins,” Recto said. “Our people are getting impatient and tired of our antics. Perhaps a little humility will help.”

But the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) welcomed Arroyo’s announcement, even challenging her to make good on her threat to veto the budget cuts.

“Let Mrs. Arroyo use her veto power, and add insult to our injury,” said Ana Maria R. Nemenzo, FDC president. “Let Gloria show us all how her government prioritizes her political survival and the country’s credit rating instead of the most basic needs of our people like education and health. And, why not? Lest we forget, among the four post-Marcos regimes, the Arroyo government has borrowed the most but spent the least on basic social services.”

Under Arroyo, the country has incurred additional debts amounting to P2.44 trillion. This is almost P1 trillion more than the combined borrowings of the Aquino, Ramos and Estrada administrations which total P1.46 trillion.

Debt service, which gets automatic appropriation, has eaten up 32 percent of this year’s budget compared to a measly 1.3 percent allotted to health and 13.9 percent to education.

“Clearly, this government has other priorities in mind,” Nemenzo said, counting appeasing international lending institutions, encouraging “political freeloaders and corrupt officials,” and advancing her charter change initiatives, among them.

The FDC also expressed concern that intelligence funds in Arroyo’s proposed budget will be used to stifle legitimate dissent. Some P1.25 billion has been allocated to the Confidential and Intelligence Expenses (CAIE), P650 million of which is under the full discretion of the Office of the President.

Arroyo defended allocations to the Kilos Asenso Support Fund as the counterpart of the national government’s programs for agricultural business. Funds under the program, she said, will be readily available for agricultural businessmen and would help boost the country’s agriculture.

Contrary to Arroyo’s claim though, the said fund was not listed under the items of the Department of Agriculture in the proposed budget. Senate President Franklin Drilon pointed out that the amount is found in the lump-sum allocation for local government units.

But while the Constitution grants the President line-item veto powers over a proposed bill, such a veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress.

This, the FDC very well knows. Leonor Briones, FDC former president, recalls the “first and only instance” of an override of an Executive veto involving the budget was during the time of Pres. Corazon Aquino when she supposedly thumbed down the proposed creation of a foreign debt council — an FDC advocacy — that called for joint legislative-executive as well as public scrutiny of the government’s external borrowings.

The “veto override”, she said, was initiated by then Sen. Alberto Romulo, now the foreign affairs secretary, in the Senate and Rep. Edcel Lagman in the Lower House.

Recalling that moment, Briones considered it one of the coalition’s significant victories at the time, crediting it in part to intense public debates and discussions on the debt issue and to legislators who took up the advocacy.

Briones said the creation of the foreign debt council allowed for a consultative process on the debt issue. Beginning 1988 public hearings were held nationwide with civil-society participation that brought the debt problem into the public discourse — something that Briones finds lacking today.

Briones, a former national treasurer during the Estrada administration, also said that while the Constitution is very clear about Congress’s power over the purse, in reality, what we have is an executive budget system that, with Arroyo’s control of the legislature, particularly the House of Representatives, only serves to undermine that congressional power.

Saying that it’s high time for legislators to realize how limited their power is, Briones reminded Congress that “the clear message of 1988 is that it’s possible to override the veto of the President.”

Asked about the matter, Lagman, however, couldn’t recall any instance of Congress overriding any item veto of Pres. Aquino. As far as he can remember, the bill proposing the creation of a foreign debt council was a separate bill from the general appropriations and was never vetoed.

“The council was created and Liling (Briones) was Romulo’s consultant there,” he said, adding that he even had misgivings about it because its members were all from the executive department.

“That’s also the reason why the council was moribund from the start,” he said.

After Aquino, no other president, except for Fidel Ramos, reconstituted the council.

3 Responses to Arroyo dared to exercise veto power vs budget cuts

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Juan Makabayan

June 8th, 2006 at 2:41 am

In simple words, binababoy nila Gloria at ng mga Tongressmen ang budget. Binaboy na budget is full of pork. With the ERVAT taking food away from the hungry a ‘Binaboy na budget’ is cannibalistic on the part of the pigs in lowest house and the little baboy in malacanang. Ni-liposuction ng senado ang binaboy na budget, ayaw pumayag nila Little Piggy at ng pack of pigs. Porky budget is for the swines.

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joselu

June 8th, 2006 at 4:55 pm

The Senates greatest fear is for any president to truely succeed.
Congresmen represent a constituency
The President is elected to lead the country
What do Senators really represent??????

The Budget is extremly delayed.
The Senators are playing hard ball.
Actually it’s because they are losers
They are lead by a loser – Drilon.
They are just pushing their weight around to assert their power.
But can anyone really say that their actions are helping to move this country forward.
It seems that that senates true purpose is to “entertain”
Perhaps, we just don’t realize it, but all this “entertainment” will have negative effects to our economy.
To the man in the street.
The Senators have their accounting-free pork barrels that will continue to give them a comfortable life.

There is just to much bad blood between the senate & the executive.
Obviously, the senators are not capable of setting aside “politics” for the sake of the country.
Actually, it’s only what they want that is important!!!!!!

This is just more resason why a unicameral will be more effective to move the country forward.

We are all witneses to what happens when “egos” control our future.
It’s obvious, that the senate will do anything to get back at the president.
The endless & directionless senate witchuts etc….
Now they are using the budget.

Are these the charcters who are supposed to be “honorable” kuno?????

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Chabeli

June 10th, 2006 at 4:18 pm

Sa umpisa pa naman Gorilla-Gloria wanted the budget to be reenacted!!!
Kaya pala naging Senate President eto si Manny Villar, he cut a deal with regards to the reenacted budget pala! Isa pa yan-kaya naman sya pumasok sa pulitika ay dahil sa mga utang nya sa real estate business nya! Parereho silang lahat!

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