GLORIA  STRIKES BACK:  ASSAILS  SENATE'S  'ENDLESS  PROBES'

MANILA
, March 8, 2006 (MALAYA) PRESIDENT Arroyo yesterday lashed at the Senate for conducting what she said were endless investigations instead of passing the proposed P13.1 billion supplemental budget for the additional P1,000 allowance of government workers.

"Iyung suweldo ng ating mga manggagawa na gusto kong ipataas ay hindi nila maasikaso kasi ginagamit lahat ng oras halos doon sa mga imbestigasyon. Tapos kumakain pa sa oras ng session. Pagbukas ng session, privilege speech. Pagkatapos noon, pagkatapos ng konting sandali, adjourn na. E ano ba ang lumabas sa kanilang imbestigasyon kuno in aid of legislation? Ano ba ang lumabas na panukalang batas o batas sa imbestigasyon na yan?" she told radio dzBB.

"Nainip na ako, hiningi ko na sa secretary of the budget (Rolando Andaya) na hanapan ng paraan na gagawin na lang administratively."

She said the increase, expected to take effect on the 15th of this month, is retroactive to January.

She said the increase would be derived from the Employers’ Benefits Fund.

Arroyo said the problem with some of her critics, particularly those in the Senate, is they use much of their time politicking.

She said senators are even using legislative inquiry to grandstand and criticize her administration.

"Tingnan mo hindi na sila tuloy nakapasa ng batas," she said.

Arroyo cited the P728 million fertilizer fund scam where she said no law or bill was made following the investigation.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the Senate’s investigation of Presidential Proclamation 1017 would only conclude "that there was a clear and present threat to national security that was nipped in the bud and contained through the timely exercise of legitimate presidential powers."

"We hope that any Senate probe will be based on fact and fair play and not an arena for political noise or anti-administration propaganda that only abets destabilization," he said.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, chairman of the committee on justice and human rights, on Monday said they would push through with an investigation and come out with a resolution even if members of the Executive boycott their hearings.

Senate President Franklin Drilon denied that the Senate is sitting on the proposal to grant a P1,000 monthly pay hike to public workers.

He said the Senate is in fact deliberating on a proposal to grant state workers a P3,000 monthly pay hike "to soften the impact of the dire financial sufferings of the people despite the vain attempts by Malacañang to depict a rosy picture of the national economy."

He said the Senate started floor debates on the P13.1 billion supplemental bill last Feb. 28, when National Treasurer Omar Cruz certified that there were funds to support the pay hike.

"That certificate is a requirement under our Constitution," he added.

Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel hinted that the Senate might approve a P2,000 wage increase for state workers.

He said Cruz has certified that there will be available funds but only for the P1,000 pay hike in the coming months from the reformed value-added tax.

"So the increase may be in tranches," Pimentel said.

Senators Panfilo Lacson, Jinggoy Estrada, Jamby Madrigal and Miriam Defensor-Santiago said they support a P3,000 pay hike.

Drilon said "the President’s spiteful tirade against senators is unfortunate."

"We maintain that, under the democratic principle of checks and balance in government, the Senate must continue to exercise its oversight functions to stop excesses of the executive department and curb public corruption," Drilon said.

"This is mandated under the Constitution, whether President Arroyo likes it or not," Drilon added.

Three Senate committees recently found that the President "must be held accountable" for the P728 million in fertilizer funds which was supposedly diverted to her campaign last May 2004.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile said the Senate and Malacañang should coordinate but the Senate must not be remiss in its functions.

"If there are things to be aired or scrutinized it is the duty of the representatives of the people in pursuance of their oversight functions to scrutinize the activities of people wielding power in the country and look into the transactions in the government," Enrile said.

He said Malacañang should not get exasperated and hurt when Congress scrutinizes its official acts.

"A life not examined is not worth living," he said, quoting the Greek philosopher Socrates. – Jocelyn Montemayor and JP Lopez

Senate, House running out of time on 2006 budget The Philippine Star 03/08/2006

The House of Representatives and the Senate are fast running out of time to approve the proposed P1-trillion national budget for this year.

The House, from which the budget measure must originate, is only at the stage of plenary debates on the general principles used by Malacañang in putting together its proposed spending program.

After that, the chamber plans to scrutinize the entire budget, agency by agency. It is at this stage that members take up their individual concerns, parochial and personal, with Cabinet members and agency heads, either in plenary session or on the sidelines. If they don’t get what they like from these officials, they usually take the floor to block plenary approval of the latter’s budgets. This would further delay deliberations.

As of now, the House is more than two months behind schedule in approving the 2006 budget.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, appropriations committee chairman, said yesterday he was hopeful the chamber could wrap up budget deliberations in two to three weeks.

"We have to enact a budget. It’s the single most important measure that Congress approves every year," he said.

He added that the passage of the measure could send the message to all sectors that "things are now normal after the recent disturbances."

If the House is able to approve the 2006 budget by the end of the month or before Congress goes on its Lenten break on April 8, it would print the measure and send it to the Senate during the lawmakers’ five-week recess.

Congress will resume session on May 15. Senators will have only up to June 9, or a period of three weeks, to approve their version of the outlay. To be squeezed within that tight period would be the bicameral conference on the measure. — Jess Diaz


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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