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‘Senators touched DPWH fund, too’

Hananeel Bordey



Senator Panfilo Lacson may have flagged some questionable infrastructure projects pushed by the House of Representatives in the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget, but he found that P10 billion of this fund was not taken off the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

While they were branded as “realignments,” these funds were only shifted towards other DPWH projects — not by the congressmen whom Lacson had tightly guarded, but by his own peers at the Senate.

Commenting on the bicameral conference for the 2021 General Appropriations Bill, Lacson said his “preliminary examination” of the summary of the Senate budget version discovered “some realignments that may seem questionable.”

“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 (were) realigned within the same agency under the Senate version,” Lacson said.

“While we can identify the locations of the Senate-realigned projects, we may not be able to identify the senator-proponents,” he stated.

Lacson said he has instructed his staff members to coordinate with the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office to track the movement of funds before the finalized version of the bill gets approved at the bicameral conference committee level.

“This is the reason why I have always called for transparency in all our individual amendments, by posting the same on our official websites for the media and the public to see,” he said.

“As I already stated, these are very preliminary even as we continue our scrutiny of the budget measure. Thus, the importance of transparency cannot be emphasized enough,” he added.

The bicameral conference committee on the 2021 national budget has already convened Tuesday morning to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of the budget versions from the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Senate Finance Committee chairperson Sonny Angara and House Appropriations chairperson Eric Go-Yap were designated by the congressmen and senators to hold “chair-to-chair sessions” to finalize the 2021 spending law.

Angara expressed hope that the bill will be ratified by both chambers next week to ensure its enactment before the end of the year.