It’s bad enough that the House of Representatives leadership realigned a whopping P95.1 billion in the P3.757-trillion proposed budget for 2019 to favored districts. It’s much more revolting that they tried to hide it by invoking “transparency.”
On this note, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson scored the House’s “talking heads” for insisting that the maneuvering in the budget – after it had already been ratified by both houses of Congress – was for “itemization.”
“National budget: Don’t be fooled by congressmen tasked to make us believe they merely ‘itemized’ when in fact, they arbitrarily realigned to favored districts several appropriations already approved by both houses of Congress thereby sacrificing already vetted infra projects,” Lacson said in a post on his Twitter account.
“Trying to hide their unconstitutional post-ratification budget realignments by claiming they wanted to itemize lump sums in the name of transparency: If that’s not irony – or hypocrisy, I don’t know what is,” he added.
Lacson said the House’s talking heads continue to muddle the issue to confuse the public, with the yarn that they merely “itemized” what was discussed and adopted in the bicameral conference committee level. The bicameral report was ratified by both houses of Congress last Feb. 8.
But Lacson said the reality is that the House “realigned” several items, which he said “do not at all reflect the agreed provisions incorporated in the bicameral report.”
He noted there is a big difference between itemizing, which is to present as a list of individual items; and realigning, which is to change or restore to a different state.
Figures from the Senate’s Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) showed a net increase of P95.1 billion in the House of Representatives’ realignments.
This includes the slashing of P72.319 billion from the Department of Public Works and Highways’ Major Final Output (MFO) 1 and 2.
Also, the House rearranged or realigned P79.7 billion from several congressional districts to the other districts, and parked P70 billion in the DPWH central office after removing them from 87 District Engineering Offices (DEOs).
“Parking the P70 billion in the DPWH’s central office was meant to make it difficult for people – including myself – to trace where it will go. You could call it a veiled effort to conceal large ‘pork insertions’ of some congressmen,” Lacson pointed out.
Earlier this month, Lacson disclosed the post-ratification maneuvering of funds in the budget by the House leadership – a violation of the 1987 Constitution’s Art. VI, Sec. 2, Paragraph 2: “Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed.”
The post-ratification tweaks by the House leadership included the Department of Health’s Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) funds – where Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s allies got P25 million while those who did not vote for her got just P8 million. Lacson said he got his information from House members who noticed the discrepancy.
Worse, the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” legacy program was not spared, as the House slashed P72.319 billion from the DPWH’s Major Final Output (MFO) 1 and 2.
The DPWH projects affected by the slashing include those had already been planned and vetted for months, or even years.
Meanwhile, Lacson has posted on his website clarifications to counter the misleading claims made by the talking heads on the issue. These can be accessed at the #UsaPing Katotohanan section in English and Tagalog.