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More concealed ‘pork?’

Hananeel Bordey

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Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Monday disclosed a P15 million infrastructure project he claimed was not properly identified in both the 2020 National Expenditure Program (NEP) and the General Appropriation Bill (GAB) submitted by the House of the Representatives.

“Poring through the NEP vs the House version of the budget bill, one project worth P15 million is annoyingly described, ‘Requesting for the improvement of a road…’ It’s interesting to find out how they can implement a request,” Lacson relayed through a Twitter post.

Recently, the lawmaker revealed an alleged plan by some House members to insert at least P700 million intended for each congressman, while each deputy speaker was to get P1.5 billion.
Lacson eventually said the plan did not push through.

This sparked a word war between the two chambers, with the House slamming Lacson’s statements, which were issued even before the Senate received a copy of the 2020 GAB.

In another tweet, Lacson said that they “can and should” make the House version of the budget available to the public as “the Filipino people deserve to see where their tax money will go.”
“We welcome any assistance in this regard. In fact, I refiled a bill to institutionalize public participation in the crafting of the budget measure,” he said.

The lawmaker further accused the House of sloppy work in crafting the P4.1 trillion expenditure plan for 2020, and claimed the project was proposed in a province in Cagayan Valley.

The House of Representatives passed the national budget last 20 September on third and final reading. But it was only sent to the Senate on 1 October. This came after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the GAB as urgent.

Senators have vowed to scrutinize the budget during the plenary deliberations of the measure, which will resume on 4 November after their one-month break.

The lawmakers have also questioned the budgetary process of the House of Representatives as the chamber passed the measure on final reading, but a small committee will still insert amendments in their GAB version.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called this “anomalous” as the version which was voted on third reading should be the final copy and no further amendments should be introduced.
To recall, the 2019 General Appropriations Act’s (GAA) approval was derailed after the House of Representatives and Senate did not find common ground on the realignment of the P75 billion worth of public works projects dubbed as “insertion” in the national budget.

This prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to veto P95 billion in the final 2019 GAA as he said he will not “tolerate corruption” during his watch.

Meanwhile, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda defended his peers against Lacson’s attacks.

“What we (did) was systematic deliberation of the budget through a multi-budget hearing, so we finished early within 30 days,” Salceda said on the sidelines of a technical working group meeting on the Department of Water bill at a hotel in Mandaluyong City.

With Keith Calayag

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