Palace queries Arroyo on pork

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Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and House leaders should explain alleged insertions in the 2019 national budget which are branded as pork barrel particularly the P2.4-billion allocated for her district in Pampanga, or the items face a presidential veto.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said given the amount involved, Arroyo and the other lawmakers involved in the supposed “budget insertions” should justify their move.

Another P9 billion suspected “pork barrel” was revealed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson as plenary discussions of the P3.757 trillion proposed 2019 national budget continued in the Senate.

Lacson noted the significant increase in the fund allotted for Assistance to Local Government Units (ALGU) from the original P7 billion in the national expenditure program (NEP) submitted by Malacañang to P16 billion in the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

He noted that another P102 million was added in the Senate version of the ALGU budget.

“My first question is, was the agency which is DBM (Department of Budget and Management) consulted when the P7 billion in ALGU ballooned to P16 billion?” the senator asked. “Would it not constitute grave abuse of discretion? DBM was not consulted. Who will implement? So again, the legislators will be implementing.”

He maintained the matter may constitute violation of the Supreme Court decision outlawing “pork barrel.”

The Priority Development Assistance Fund, a discretionary fund that allows lawmakers to allot funds for their projects, has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling in 2013.

Why so large?

“I think we should ask the Speaker why the allocation is that large as compared to others,” Panelo said. “If the Speaker, or anyone involved in the realignment, can justify why there is a need to place that kind of amount in a particular area and the other areas do not need that, then that could be justified.”

The spokesman explained the exercise of veto power is a “check and balance principle” that stops the enactment of a bill and returns it to the House where it originated.
“The power to veto is to disapprove of any bill in Congress that has been passed by both Houses which he does not approve of. If he feels it is in violation of the Constitution, he will do it,” he explained.

Rody won’t spare whip

He, however, cautioned President Rodrigo Duterte will not hesitate to crack the whip if the said budget is “spent outside the real purpose.”

“The President can always use the veto power if he feels that there is a need for it,” Panelo said.

However, the Palace official said he sees no need for the Executive branch to formally seek an explanation from Arroyo as the reaction of the public and other lawmakers may prompt her to do so.

Last Wednesday, Lacson bared a list allegedly showing several insertions he described as “pork barrel,” including money supposedly intended for infrastructure in selected towns within Arroyo’s district in Pampanga.

“The President hasn’t said anything about it yet. That’s one of the things I will ask him personally so that we will have a categorical answer from the President,” Panelo said. “The basis of the President in all his actions would be one, to serve the people and, number two, to protect the people.”

With Mario J. Mallari

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