Press Release
March 26, 2019

Transcript of Interview of Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III

on Dateline ANC

On the 2019 budget

Q: What is making it difficult to get the budget passed?

SP Sotto: The internal realignments that I feel are not or were not part of the original ratified version of the budget is really the (unclear). Yes indeed, it is only 2 or 3 percent of the entire budget that is necessary, but that is really what (unclear) I am encountering because it was not part of what was ratified. The itemization that they were talking about was already done, they were all itemized and I have no problem with that. We have no problem with the itemized budget, but what we are saying is if we are not sure what was realigned, and that was not part of what was ratified. But nevertheless, I think we will try to find a solution by today.

Q: Here's the thing, the House of Representatives has made the Senate look bad. They say that you are the ones committing an unconstitutional act and pursuing a budget that has lump sum allocations and conversely, you are saying that they are about to make the President, and you yourself, the Senate President, commit something illegal, by passing a budget that was not the one that was ratified. Between these two accusations, what could be the middle ground?

SP Sotto: Before we talk of any middle ground, we can't (unclear) allegations like that. There are no lump sum as far as we are concerned. They are all itemized. What lump sum are they talking about? We are not in favor of lump sum. They'd better stop making up stories if they want us to sit down properly. There is no such thing as lump sum as far as we are concerned. The LBRMO can attest to that. All the items are itemized. The institutional amendments were all done in the second floor, so there is no such thing as lump sum in this budget, I wonder what they mean by lump sum. Baka in their part of the budget, but not in what we see. As a matter of fact, the P96 billion that we are questioning is not a lump sum. (Unclear) all identified projects by the DPWH in the different districts of the country. I'd want to include they changed it after we already ratified it. That is not part of the agreement in the bicam. If they want a resolution to this, stop inventing things about the Senate and making us look bad. We will never look bad because we are on the right side of the fence. We know what is not constitutional or constitutional, there is nothing unconstitutional that the Senate is doing, (unclear) 100 percent. Do you hear any single senator complaining that we're wrong or that we did something wrong, from the minority to the majority? While on the other hand, I can show you and I can introduce to you 62 congressmen who are saying that they did something wrong with their budget. So, who is doing something unconstitutional?

Q: Let's take a moment and talk about Speaker Gloria Arroyo. From the sound bite of an Ambush interview that she had yesterday, she said it seems like it's now going to be up to the Senate and she gave Congressman Fredenil Castro some guideposts for negotiations, that they have to ensure that the 2019 budget will not only be constitutional and legal, but must pass the test of transparency and accountability. Shouldn't that have been given when all of you were crafting the budget?

SP Sotto: Precisely, that is the point. Your question is in the reverse. They had the budget from July all the way to November 24 and they had it again for one month after, February. It was only in the hands of the Senate from December 4 to February 8. Whatever they wanted to do, they should have done it before February 8, before the bicam. Everything (unclear) they should have done before the bicam. The Senate did not touch anything after the ratification.

Q: Give it to me straight, Mr. Senate President, why do you think they did not do what they were supposed to do before the ratification?

SP Sotto: I don't know, your guess is as good as mine. The only thing that I could think of is that they probably did not want the other districts to have more than the other districts, and...

Q: Why are they doing that in the first place? What is the possible reason behind this?

SP Sotto: As I said it's a wild guess, I'd rather not take the fact that they are doing and making allegations on the House. If they want this resolved, it's better to stop the allegations because in our case, we've been very kind about this. We could be very morbid about things if we wanted to, but let's try to be conservative about it, and we've kept quiet about it. So, they'd better stop (unclear) allegations. The LBRMO of the Senate, the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office, can attest to every single centavo that we discussed in the budget and they are the ones that saw the red flag and gave me a red flag on what the House did, so it's as simple as that. Lahat ng maririnig ninyo, palusot. All the explanations that you were hearing, palusot so if they want this resolved, they better shut up and let the contingent, the people in the contingent solve it. We are going to talk about it after lunch, we will try to find a constitutional solution to the matter.

Q: And in the middle of all these, Mr. Senate President, it's the people. It does not look good for both Chambers. How do you then bridge that gap?

SP Sotto: Well, I don't know about them but the Senate has the highest trust and approval rating ever from 1987 to the present, so I don't know what you mean. Perhaps you are talking about the House. We are very careful, we are very concerned about this. We have the number one anti-pork policeman in the Senate, and he is scrutinizing everything. So I am sure the people will know what or who they can trust.

Q: As you go into that meeting with representatives of the House. What is that one thing that you are expecting them to do? That one thing that could lead to a resolution of this budget impasse?

SP Sotto: That they remove all the realigned items. If they did that two weeks ago when we when the red flag was up there, everything would have been easily resolved. If they don't want to then, anyway, we will find a way. We will let you know this afternoon.

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