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Constitutional, ethical questions on budget bill

/ 05:12 AM March 29, 2019

The current brouhaha over the budget bill has brought to the fore certain constitutional and ethical questions that are ripe for judicial determination and for a thorough, unbridled public scrutiny as well.

For one, the act of the House of Representatives in holding on to the ratified bill for the purpose of itemizing or fleshing out any of its provisions finds no basis in the Constitution nor in the law. After the bill’s ratification by both houses of Congress, the next thing left for them to do is to perform no more than the “ministerial” duty of coming out with an “enrolled bill,” which is simply the ratified bicameral conference committee version of the House and Senate bills duly signed by the speaker and Senate president and attested to by the secretaries of both chambers.

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As it now stands, Congress has held the budget bill hostage and the operation of the entire government under great stress for an unreasonable length of time (in fact, almost thrice as much as the 30-day period given by the Constitution to the President to act on an enrolled bill) by assuming a discretionary power over the disposition of a ratified bill which many legal experts believe the legislative body, or any of its houses, does not have.

For another, the recent act of the Senate leadership to sit down and negotiate with the House to resolve the impasse is also deemed as highly dubious considering that “negotiation” would give no other impression than that it agrees with the lower chamber, after all the hullabaloo, that the ratified budget bill may still be subjected to changes by way of “itemization” of the already approved appropriations.

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OPINION

Those acts of the chambers, taken together, would in effect set a precedent which, unless judicially overturned in a proper action, would recur in the future and throw in disarray the entire budget process as mandated by the Constitution.

And at the end of it all, the uncertainty engendered by this unwarranted exercise of legislative hegemony is hurting badly the economy, and wreaks havoc on the  people who are bearing the brunt of a budget bill that “flew” but is unsure when it will “touch ground” to serve its intended purpose.

ALVIN T. CLARIDADES, Obando, Bulacan, [email protected]

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TAGS: 2019 budget, budget bill, constitutional question, ethics, opinion, Philippines
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