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Constitution must be followed, Panelo says of President’s veto

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By Genalyn Kabiling

The Constitution must always be followed and any violation will not be tolerated by President Duterte, Malacañang said Tuesday a day after he vetoed P95 billion in infrastructure projects from the 2019 national budget.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo explained the President found unlawful the “insertions” made by some lawmakers in the national budget so he exercised his veto power.

“They are in violation of the Constitution whether you call it pork, beef or fish,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing, when asked if the vetoed appropriations were pork barrel funds.

“The messages is always you follow the Constitution. Any deviation from the constitution will not be approved by the President or will not be tolerated,” he added in explaining the President’s action against the budget insertions.

After months of delay, President Duterte has finally signed Republic Act No. 11260 also known as the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019 last Monday afternoon. Panelo said the national budget reflected the government’s vision for genuine change in the country “where effective and efficient delivery of programs, projects and public services for our people will be its hallmark.”

Duterte, however, vetoed P95.3 billion worth of appropriations under the Department of Public Works and Highways since it fell “outside the government’s programmed priorities,” according to Panelo. The original budget proposal was P3.757 trillion.

He explained that the appropriation items vetoed were either considered by law as rider provisions not being related to a particular appropriation or they seek to amend the Constitution and certain statutes.

“Those are the so-called insertions, riders. They are not part of the program by the DPWH hence it violates the Constitution,” he said.

“The decision of the Supreme Court was that if they are unprogrammed then it violates the Constitution,” he added.

Panelo said the President also imposed “conditional implementation” on some provisions to ensure conformity with the law.

Among these programs are the allowance and benefits of teachers and creation of teaching positions, construction of evacuation centers, funding for foreign-assisted projects, revolving fund, and lump-sum appropriations for capital outlays, as well as financial assistance to local government units and funding requirements of foreign service.

Prior to the signing of the new spending plan, the government was running on a reenacted budget since January. The approval of the new national budget was delayed for months due to the statement between the two houses of Congress on alleged irregular realignments, including post-ratification changes.

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