Dubious items in the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget for 2021 – including double and overlapping appropriations – could be a key starting point for Malacañang in reviewing the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget bill, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said.
“It is clear that questionable items such as double and overlapping appropriations should be vetoed, along with at least 793 line items for multi-purpose buildings with a uniform P1-million appropriation each,” he said in an interview on DZRH radio Thursday evening.
Even the multi-purpose buildings that I had repeatedly questioned in the committee hearings all the way to plenary gained more funds instead of being reduced, in spite of the obvious waste of funds due to the failure of the DPWH to implement them.
For the record, I am not questioning the collegial nature of our plenary deliberations. But I cannot give my vote to a measure as important as the national budget without having read the details of the said bicameral conference report.
All that being said, what happened is now water under the bridge. But it is high time we learn our lessons from this.
I don’t agree on anything that is not transparent, especially if it concerns the national budget. While the bicameral conference committee may have been reduced to a “Committee of Two,” it is not exactly the case.
In fact, I already instructed my staff to coordinate closely with the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) on whatever movements of funds before the final version of the bill is presented to the bicam members for our signatures and approval.
Also, I practically demanded that I be furnished with a copy of the details of the Senate version before the convening of the bicameral conference, as what we had until yesterday morning was only the summary of the Senate version.
Having said all that, we already found some realignments that may seem questionable, based on our preliminary examination. For instance, while some of my recommended slash from the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget was adopted, we also noticed at least P10 billion worth of infrastructure projects realigned within the same agency under the Senate version.
A measure on teaching GMRC to young learners during their formative years was tackled at the bicameral conference committee level on Feb. 26, 2020. Sen. Lacson (second from right, standing) is part of the Senate contingent. He authored SB 1185, which is part of the GMRC measure.
Other lawmakers at the meeting included Senators Win Gatchalian (Senate panel chair), Migz Zubiri, Risa Hontiveros and Joel Villanueva; and Reps. Roman Romulo (House panel chair), Stella Luz Quimbo, Resurreccion Acop, Evelina Escudero, and Jocelyn Fortuno.
Representatives of the Senate and House met to discuss the passage of the P4.1-trillion 2020 budget. At the meeting, Sen. Lacson manifested for transparency, where the Senate and House will submit to each other the new amendments not yet included in their respective versions.
Sen. Lacson also said he expects the smooth and early passage of the 2020 budget bill, provided there is no move to introduce post-ratification amendments like in the 2019 budget. He also answered questions on issues regarding the SEA Games hosting, and the selection of a new PNP chief.
In an interview on DZBB/GNTV, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– need for transparency in crafting the 2020 budget
– curbing pork amid growing national debt
– making enemies while fighting pork in the budget
In an interview on DWIZ, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– possible delay in the signing of the 2019 budget due to House’s post-ratification pork
– need to revisit RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty amid US State Secretary Pompeo’s assurance
If you notice, the budget bill has not been transmitted to Malacañang in spite of the bicam report being ratified by both houses of Congress more than two weeks ago.
I have it on good information that the House leadership is still waiting for several congressmen to finalize the submission of their individual projects. This is not to mention that insertions and realignments were made even after the bicameral report ratification.
While technically speaking, it may not constitute post-legislation enactment since the President has not yet signed the budget measure, we can see clear abuse of discretion especially if done without the concurrence of the Senate; it is also an utter disregard of the Supreme Court’s 2013 landmark ruling.
This latest caper that the House leadership is trying to pull off may also constitute violation of the 1987 Constitution. I’ve talked to some congressmen who expressed anxiety that the pork barrel allocations of at least 60 congressmen were slashed post-bicam ratification.
Whatever it is, these are things that they do for greed. It’s a shame and revolting, to say the least.