By DJ Yap, December 5 2018; Philippine Daily Inquirer
Image Credit to GMA Network
The graft-ridden pork barrel has again reared its ugly head in the proposed P3.8-trillion national budget for 2019, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Two members of the House of Representatives have been allotted more than P1 billion each in extra funding for their pet projects in the national budget for 2019, Lacson said on Monday night.
Speaking to reporters, the senator said his initial perusal of the appropriations bill showed that at least two House members had been given funds way more than the P60 million promised by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for each of the 292 district and party-list representatives.
“We saw something. A congressman got an additional P1.5 billion. [Another] congressman or shall we say a congresswoman got P1.6 billion additional. So are we supposed to just let this be?” he said.
Lacson did not name the lawmakers but warned that he was prepared to identify them during the Senate’s plenary debate on the general appropriations bill, which was to begin this week.
“Yes, [I will name them] once we find out who got how much, because all that will come out during interpellation just to prove my point that they touched the [national expenditure program],” he said, referring to the original proposal of the Department of Budget and Management.
The Senate is rushing to ratify the budget measure before year-end to prevent the reenactment of current appropriations. Some senators worry that there’s not enough time to properly scrutinize the bill for last-minute insertions and amendments by the House.
Congress is supposed to have its last session day on Dec. 12, but under a revised timeline, the legislative calendar may be extended by at least another day for ratification of the budget measure by the Senate and the House.
Lacson earlier claimed that last-minute insertions by congressmen for their pork allocations delayed the passage of the budget bill in the House.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya said the delays were due to belated requests of President Duterte and Cabinet members for funding for certain projects not in the original budget proposal.
Last week, Andaya admitted that Arroyo had directed the allotment of at least P60 million worth of government projects for each House member.
But he insisted that the funds were all itemized and not postenactment, lump-sum appropriations or the official definition of “pork barrel,” which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2013.
Lacson said he had many questions about the changes made by the House in the proposed national expenditure program, including the realignment of P51.8 billion in public works funds.
The senator said there might have been “butal,” or extra allocations that effectively left each House member with P67 million and not P60 million as previously disclosed.
“Of course, we need to scrutinize if what they did was proper, and was there a violation of the Supreme Court ruling that outlawed pork barrel? And I would say yes, there’s a violation,” he said.
The Supreme Court declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a pork barrel, in the wake of public uproar over the P10-billion scam in which PDAF allocations went to ghost projects lawmakers had identified and to kickbacks.
Lacson said: “So are we going to allow the revival of pork barrel? Of course not.”
Pork barrel is a program that channels funds to congressional districts. It is used in the budget to give lawmakers lump-sum allocations to finance their pet projects after the appropriations law has been approved.