(File photo courtesy of House of Representatives)

MANILA – The recent passage of the PHP5.268-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) -- the first budget measure under Speaker Martin Romualdez -- showed that there is a higher level of consensus among members of the House of Representatives under the 19th Congress, a House leader said on Sunday.

"The 2023 GAB--incidentally, the largest in the country's history -- was approved by the House on third and final reading via nominal vote result of 289-3-0 (yes-no-abstain) on September 28 during the final session day before the month-long recess," House Majority Leader and Zamboanga City 2nd District Rep. Manuel Jose "Mannix" Dalipe said in a statement.

The lawmaker added that the interesting aspect of the result is the "no" or negative votes against the GAB, which in this case are only three.

"These three negative votes came from the minority bloc, specifically from the Makabayan lawmakers who are traditional oppositionists to the budget bill," he said.

Based on records, in the previous 17th and 18th Congresses, the negative votes of members ranged from five to nine.

Dalipe said he sees that having fewer oppositionists to the GAB indicates stronger agreement in the lower chamber, as even the likes of Minority Leader and 4Ps Party-list Rep. Marcelino Libanan and independent minority solon Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman gave affirmative votes on the budget.

Libanan, who together with the rest of the minority bloc were the most active members in interpellating against the individual agencies' allocations during the sponsorship and debate phase of the budget, credited the majority bloc for not railroading the GAB and allowing for meaningful discussions to take place at the plenary.

“Let me commend the Majority, because, despite its numerical superiority, it did not behave like a rampaging freight train barreling its way through the railroad of lawmaking,” Libanan said during his turno en contra just before the nominal vote on the GAB.

“And let me commend our members in the minority for responsibly scrutinizing the budget with rational rather than emotional metrics, even while ensuring that their bucket lists for the benefit of their constituencies were addressed as well," he added.

In his speech at the end of the budget process, Romualdez said a "deep sense of urgency, combined with detailed scrutiny from our colleagues in the minority, and the tireless and unceasing cooperation of our fellow civil servants from various agencies in the Executive Department" allowed the chamber to "to hammer out in no time the best possible version for the approval on third reading of HB (House Bill) 4488, or the proposed PHP5.268-trillion national spending plan for 2023".

Observing the stronger consensus on the budget firsthand, the Leyte 1st District representative and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) president made special mentions to those from the majority, the minority, and an independent minority who tirelessly worked the past five weeks toward passing the GAB.

"Considering these initial legislative accomplishments in the first two months of the 19th Congress, let me acknowledge the enthusiasm of our, members, the relentless work of our Deputy Speakers led by Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe ably assisted by his Senior Deputy Majority Leader Ferdinand Alexander Marcos, the chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, Congressman Elizaldy Co and his workhorse, our senior vice chairperson Congresswoman Stella Quimbo and all the vice chairs of the Committee on Appropriations for a job well done as well as the members, as well as the uncompromising stand on many issues by Minority Leader, Congressman Marcelino Libanan and his senior Deputy Paul Daza, to the leader of the Independent Bloc, Congressman Edcel Lagman, thank you for your insights and your good work in fiscalizing the budget," he said. (PNA)