The annexes which contain the descriptions of the projects listed under the 2020 national budget approved by the Congress were not yet submitted to the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO), Senator Panfilo Lacson said.
In his speech explaining his dissenting vote on the budget ratification Monday, Lacson bared that after four days since the ratification, the part of the budget which provides the specifics of the projects included in the 2020 General Appropriations Bill were not yet transmitted to the LBRMO.
“As we speak Mr President, there’s no annex being sent. I don’t know if the LBRMO has received the annexes of the details of the line items contained in the bicam report which was signed last Wednesday morning and ratified Wednesday afternoon,” he said.
This was consistent to his claims that the budget passed by the bicameral conference committee (BCC) and ratified by both Houses contained lump sum appropriations or pork barrel as these projects were not specified.
“So how could I sign a BCC report and vote for the ratification if there are items that are all in round figure, down to millions of pesos, not even thousands or hundreds of pesos, when during the budget deliberation we were trying to correct this?” he said.
“And I would like to find out from LBRMO if they received details of the bicam report in the form of annexes because I understand as of this morning they have not received any,” he added.
The senator pointed out anew that the Senate and the House have spent time to scrutinize the budget yet some lawmakers will insert items that were not deliberated on the plenary.
“We spend so much time in deliberating on the 2020 budget measure. We spent countless hours studying then debating not only on the committee level but on the floor as well. And then when we corrected items which DPWH at the time admitted to have submitted lump sum appropriations, which they corrected by submitting errata, and we will find out later during the BCC report signing, the same items would resurface,” he said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III referred Lacson’s manifestation to the Senate Committee on Finance and told Lacson to send a copy of the list of items to his office and refer this to Malacañang and the Executive Department.
“May I suggest that Senator Lacson send a correspondence to the office of the Senate President containing the items that he has mentioned so that we can gloss over and perhaps discuss it with the executive department at the proper time,” he said.
Last week the House and the Senate have ratified the 2020 proposed national budget. The final version of the budget is now being printed before it can be transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
Malacañang, through Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, said that the President is open to exercise his veto power on some items of the 2020 budget that were questionable.
To recall, Duterte vetoed P95 billion worth of projects in the 2019 GAB passed by Congress as the legality of the said projects are considered doubtful.