2019 national budget might not be signed on Monday after all


The signing of the P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 may not push through next week after all as President Rodrigo Duterte is still scrutinizing the much-delayed spending bill as of Thursday.

In this file photo, President Duterte signs papers. The Palace said the signing of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill might have to wait until after Holy Week.
 

A Malacañang advisory on Wednesday said Duterte would sign the 2019 budget on April 15. The Presidential Communications Operations Office later on sent an updated advisory that no longer contained the budget signing.

Asked about the status of the budget Thursday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo replied: "Pinag-aaralan niya (The president is studying it)."

"Kinalendar na, pero mukhang pinag-aaralan pa. Eh, baka after Holy Week (The signing has been placed in the calendar of activities but the budget is still being
studied. Maybe after Holy Week)," he added.

Panelo confirmed that the budget signing was removed from the president's schedule.

"They can bring it back, right? All his schedules are subject to change without prior notice," the presidential spokesman said.

"I don’t want to speculate or guess. I will ask him when I see him," he added.

Bickering and mudslinging between lawmakers and the budget department dogged discussions on this year's budget. Because of the controversies, Congress failed to pass the budget in December, forcing the government to operate on a reenacted budget in the first three months of the year.

One of the controversies that dogged the budget was the rift over moves to scrap the Road Board. The proposal reportedly triggered a quarrel between then budget secretary Benjamin Diokno and some lawmakers who accused him of inserting some P75 billion in the spending bill. Diokno, now the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor, has denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, Duterte signed a law abolishing the Road Board, a body he described as a "milking cow" of corrupt officials.

House and Senate leaders also accused each other of making last-minute amendments to the proposed budget.

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