By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte can apply his veto power against any unlawful budget allocation amid the alleged return of the pork barrel system in the 2019 national budget, Malacañang asserted Thursday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo issued the statement after saying House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should explain to the public the alleged P2.4 billion pork barrel allocation for her home district.
“The President can always use veto power if he feels there is a need for that,” Panelo said in an interview with reporters at the Palace.
“If he feels that it’s a violation of the Constitution, he will do it,” he added.
Panelo noted the President’s veto power was the authority to disapprove any bill that has been passed by Congress if he has certain objections. “That’s the checks and balances principle,” he said.
Earlier, Panelo said Arroyo should justify the huge budget allocation for her home district of Pampanga following concerns raised by some groups that it was pork barrel, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional.
“I think we should ask the Speaker why the allocation is that large as compared to others,” he said.
“Given the amount involved (and) given the reaction of people like you, we citizens also would like an explanation,” he added.
Panelo, however, did not say if Arroyo’s budget allocation was considered pork barrel. He said he would still ask the President about his position on the matter.
“What is important to me is whether those allocations are geared for the benefit of the constituents to where they are assigned,” he said.
“For as long those money are spent where they should be spent. But if those money are spent outside of the real purpose of them, then that is corruption, and we would not allow that,” he added.
Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier expressed concern about the alleged P56.7 billion pork barrel or discretionary funds hidden in the proposed national budget for 2019.
He claimed that a congresswoman received P2.4 billion worth of projects in her home district alone. He did not identify the lawmaker but speculation was rife it was Arroyo, representative of Pampanga’s 2nd District.
In 2013, the Supreme Court has ruled on that Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDFA) commonly known as pork barrel funds as unconstitutional.
It ruled that the PDAF and previous pork barrel funds violated the constitutional principle of separation of powers in allowing lawmakers to wield, in varying gradations, non-oversight, post-enactment authority in vital areas of budget execution.