Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

Congress again proves it is a rubber stamp

Sep 10, 2022, 12:45 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Writer/Columnist

By breezing through in seven minutes (without questions) the proposed P5.268 trillion national budget for 2023, which allots P9 billion for the Office of the President and P2.3 billion for the Office of the Vice President, Congress has shown that it had made itself a genuine rubber stamp of the executive department.

The editorial of the Inquirer last September 7 says it all:

“The leaders of Congress—Speaker of the House and the Senate President—should crack the whip on their colleagues and remind them that acting like the President’s rubber stamps demeans their office and weakens our lawmaking institutions over the long run.”

Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto asked if his colleagues would not even bother to ask the palace for details of the staggering P588 billion in “unprogrammed funds” in the budget for 2023.

Citing parliamentary courtesy to a coequal branch of government, the number of questions Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez was asked by some House lawmakers about the spending bill totaled NONE. Are they afraid of the little president?

The session was terminated after 10 minutes, despite over half of the budget request for 2023 coming in the form of confidential and intelligence funds.

Yet, they played coy about the requested P2.3 billion for OVP—thrice the amount allocated to then VP Leni Robredo which also chock full of discretionary funds.

We would not be surprised if the majority would simply let this one slide, too, says the editorial.

Duterte’s budget also took 7 minutes

I don’t know if this SOP (standard operating procedure) for Congress to give a free pass to approving the budgets of the two top posts in the land. They did express approval of the budget of former President Duterte—unexamined, without anyone in the hall having yet warmed his/her seat.

Sadly, we’re almost certain many of these congressmen exercise greater diligence in examining their utility bills or their restaurant chits before handing their credit cards over for swiping, the editorial stated.

One thing is clear from this priority and unquestioning treatment of the budgets of the president and VP. They want to ingratiate themselves perhaps to get more favors from the occupants of these posts.

But mind you, when the budgets of all other departments and bureaus and LGUs are concerned, these all pass through a fine-tooth comb, almost granting some grudgingly (as if it were their monies they were dispensing with and even if the offices concerned have vital projects that would benefit most people).

These representatives—many of them elected with a promise to safeguard the interest of the people-- have abdicated their responsibility to protect the money levied from their constituents through taxes for the sake of parliamentary courtesy, or their desire not to upset the president and endangering the release of government funds for their districts.

The legislators have the sworn duty to ensure that every peso is correctly allocated and judiciously spent for what else are those budget hearings if these lawmakers will not perform their power to examine the billions of pesos in unspecified allocations.

The case of UP, PGH

Look at how they slashed the budgets of the Philippine General Hospital (which is the health savior of the masses) and the University of the Philippines (supposedly a higher education institution for the poor but has been dominated by sons and daughters of these legislators and those in positions of power).

They also bully officials of agencies that have not been cooperative with them and extend demeaning treatment to lowly public servants, who have no choice but to address them “your honor” whenever asked by these legislators.

These legislators must stop behaving like scaredy cats for people more powerful than them while bullying those below them (in pay grades). Of course, nothing beats the amount of fat that is disbursed to these privileged legislators and by ingratiating themselves with those above them, they expect to be greased even more.

The Speaker and Senate president must discipline their members and remind them that acting like rubber stamps demeans their office and reduces the institutions in the long run.

How about pressing Malacañang for details of the staggering P588 billion in “unprogrammed” funds in the P5.268 trillion national budget for 2023, which Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto earlier questioned.

If these lawmakers truly want to win favor with the President, the best way is not to give him an easy time, but for them to do their jobs of properly scrutinizing the use of the Filipino’s tax money so that, by the end of his term, the President can stand tall and proud, proclaiming that he went through the congressional budget wringer and passed with flying colors. Any treatment less than that is a disservice to the people by their elected legislators, the editorial stated.


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