Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymond “L-Ray” Villafuerte was merely sour graping after the lawmaker claimed that the House leadership has been allotted P92.3 billion in the 2019 national budget to favored members of the chamber, according to House Majority Floor Leader Fredenil Castro.
Castro called Villafuerte a fake news peddler after the Camarines Sur solon accused House leaders of manipulating the budget for the benefit of selected congressmen.
“I pity my good friend L-Ray, but I understand where he is coming from. He is one of the former House leaders who stand to gain billions (of pesos) in projects had we not corrected the inequities in the National Expenditure Program (NEP),” Castro pointed out.
Citing the House’s records on the budget allocations, Castro said Villafuerte was supposed to receive P2.7 billion from the proposed expenditure plan.
Aside from that, Villafuerte was also set to have a share in the P75-billion insertion which was discovered during the House’s budget scrutiny.
The House leader said Villafuerte is the only one of the “more than two dozens” of selected solons who were also allocated with more than P3 billion to P8 billion per district which was considered by the current House administration as being a “wide discrepancy in the distribution of programs and projects as unconscionable.”
Castro said they are making sure that the budget will be equitably divided and it will not be based on loyalties and votes on legislative measures.
“We made sure that the 2019 budget is not only constitutional and legal. It is also transparent, with the list of projects itemized per district. This way, our taxpayers will know who are accountable for these projects,” he added.
Castro is also confident that there are more than 200 congressmen who believe that the current leaders have divided the district allocations equitably.
“If Rep. Villafuerte and other allies of the previous House leadership are not happy with their share of the national budget, there are more than 200 congressmen who think otherwise,” he said.
Equitable funding out
“Unlike before, programs and projects are now equitably funded for all legislative districts, regardless of their congressmen’s political affiliation and votes on legislative districts,” he added.
The 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) has been transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval.
The national budget was delayed by almost four months after House leaders found out P75 billion in insertions to the NEP presented by President Duterte during his State of the Nation Address. The government is now operating under a re-enacted budget.
National Economic Development Authority Secretary Ernesto Pernia warned previously that the country’s full-year gross domestic product growth could decrease to a low of 4.2 percent this year from a targeted 6 percent to 7 percent expansion if the 2019 national budget will not be approved soon.
Delay over pork clash
A dispute over amendments introduced in the budget between the Senate and the House of Representatives had held up the budget’s approval.
The Senate branded the House move to itemize the lump sum appropriations in the 2019 GAB as illegal.
The House refuted the Senate’s accusations emphasizing they were just making sure the 2019 budget will be transparent and accountable.
The House leaders added the approval of a budget with lump sum appropriations should be considered unconstitutional.
They said identifying items for appropriations is consistent with the long-term tradition in budget authorization.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel as unconstitutional. The ruling, in essence, prohibited legislators from tampering with the budget after the President has signed the bill into law.
PDAF is a lump-sum discretionary fund made available to members of both chambers of Congress.
“Any post-enactment measure allowing legislator participation beyond oversight is bereft of any constitutional basis and, hence, tantamount to impermissible interference and/or assumption of executive functions. Any post-enactment congressional measure should be limited to scrutiny and investigation,” the High Tribunal ruled.