The 2019 Midterm Elections can serve as a perfect reminder for members of Congress that their negligence can cause them their mandate.
The 17th Congress failed to pass the proposed PhP 3.7 Billion 2019 National Budget during its last session day held last 13 December 2018. In the absence of a request from the President to hold a special session to pass the proposed budget, the government would have to operate under a re-enacted budget allocation at least for the first month of 2019.
Part of the Congress' law making function is to ensure that the National Budget is passed. In the United States, Congress is duty-bound to legislate an appropriations act on time. Their failure to do so would lead to a shut down in the operation of federal agencies and implementation of programs. In the Philippines, lawmakers have the power to force government to operate on a re-enacted budget. Budget re-enactment is a mechanism accorded to the government to ensure continuity in its operations, in case Congress fails to pass the succeeding year national budget before the last month of the current year.
Under a reenacted budget, new government programs and projects proposed for 2019 will be unfunded since the previous outlay will be re-used for the forthcoming year. This will particularly have implications on planned infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration, which are set to take-off next year. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno expressed concerns that a big chunk of the infrastructure budget will be stalled by about five months with a re-enacted budget, more so that there is an election ban of 45 days on new construction next year. In addition, all salary adjustments for civilian and military personnel allocated and programmed for 2019 will have to wait until the new budget is passed.
Both the Executive and Legislative chambers have gone back-and-forth on the party to be made accountable for the untimely passage of the budget. Political circumstances, particularly with the change in House Leadership, can also be considered a contributing factor. Nevertheless, these should never be made an excuse for the failure to pass the 2019 National Budget on time.
Congress has always given a free pass by allowing budget re-enactment, which is used both as a safeguard provided to government so that it can continue its operations and, unfortunately as a scapegoat once they fail to perform one of their mandated law-making duties on time. Budget re-enactment is a peculiar feature of the Philippine Budget System which must be reformed. While the Philippine Constitution recognizes budget re-enactment as a fail-safe mechanism, the lax and complacent behavior of several members of Congress should not be tolerated and must be outrightly rejected by the voting populace.
The 2019 Midterm Elections can serve as a perfect reminder for members of Congress that their negligence can cause them their mandate. In today's politics after all, nobody is indispensable.