By Mario Casayuran
Passage of the proposed 2020 P4.1 trillion national budget before the end of 2019 may be delayed as senators cried foul over the alleged plan of the House of Representatives leadership to sneak in P100 billion in pork barrel appropriations or about P500 million per congressman during their Senate-Lower House bicameral conference committee meetings.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, an anti-pork barrel system advocate, raised this possibility as he and other senators belonging to both the Senate majority and minority blocs have hardened their position against any repeat of the 2019 budget experience where its approval was delayed for three months after the Lower House leadership insisted in forcing the Senate to adopt its revised version of the budget.
During a radio interview, Lacson described the House ‘’budget attack’’ as ‘’malevolent and sneaky.’’
The House budget was revised to include the P90 billion which was not included in the 2019 budget it approved on third and final reading.
Lacson said there is a constitutional provision which states that no further amendment must be entertained after the approval of the budget on final reading.
President Duterte broke the impasse when he sided with the Senate led by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III that the inclusion of the P90 billion pork barrel was illegal.
Senators earlier said they appreciated the original House budget version which contained institutional amendments amounting to P9.5 billion.
Lacson said he was surprised to learn that a small House committee planned to submit an amended budget version to include the P100 billion during their bicameral conference committee meeting this December.
‘’Nagulat din ako; hindi na rin surprised na may pinaplano palang i-realign P100 billion,’’ he said. (At first, I was surprised. But it was no longer a surprise that they plan to realign P100 billion.)
Lacson stressed that he wanted their bicameral conference committee meeting open to the public ‘’because it is after all their money.’’
He said the proposed P100 billion pork barrel distorts the whole budget system.
Asked what would be the scenario on the budget issue, Lacson said the Senate is committed to a no delay in the approval of the budget but the budget delay will come when the House of Representatives would insist on the P100 billion pork.
He said he believes that the President has a track record of vetoing pork barrel appropriations.
He said senators have learned a lesson that a re-enacted budget has s big negative effect on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
When the Senate begins this week the plenary debate on the proposed 2020 national budget, Lacson said he would, during an interpellation period, use a powerpoint to indicate which legislative district has P300 million pork barrel while another has P500 million.