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No budget delay, pork barrel or not

EDITORIAL

Published

dec-15There  will  be no delay this year in the approval of the national budget.  Congress approved  the 2020 National  Appropriation Bill for P4.1 trillion last Wednesday.  A bicameral conference committee had reconciled  differences  between  the House and Senate versions of the bill and the two chambers approved  the final  bill, which will now be sent to President Duterte for his signature.

In contrast,  the 2019 P3.662-triliion budget bill was delayed four months  in  Congress which approved  it only in April, 2019. As result, all government programs  scheduled  for the first four  months of 2019  could  not be carried out. The Senate finally  decided to  just go along with the House version, and just informed  President Duterte that it contained  P75 billion in “pork barrel.” And  he simply vetoed the P75 billion.

This year, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the new  budget  may have some P83-billion inserted  by congressmen which  he  suspects  to be “pork barrel” funds. These had been added to the administration’s original budgets  for  the Department  of Public Works and other departments.

Lacson  said the Senate Legislative Budget Research  and Monitoring Office was able to get  from the House of Representatives  a  “Source File” containing  1,253 items  with a total funding of P83.21 billion and  another “List File” with 742 projects with a total funding of P1.34 billion.  “Since  there is no preliminary explanation from the House  regarding the two files, we cannot  ascertain if indeed only P16.345 billion or the bigger  amount of P83.219 billion was inserted at the last minute prior to  the bicameral  signing,” Lacson said.

Against Lacson’s suspicions and charges, Rep. Isidro Ungab,  chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said Friday that in compliance with the President’s  instructions, the 2020 budget bill contains no pork, no last-minute insertions, and no parked  funds.  All changes made by the House were aligned with the President’s priorities and based on recommendations of the Cabinet departments and other government agencies, he said.

The  question of pork barrel in the budget  will have to be decided by the Office of the President. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo  said  the budget bill from Congress will undergo  a thorough scrutiny  and any provision that runs  counter to the Constitution will be vetoed, he said.

We have full confidence in President  Duterte and his men in the administration looking after  the public works and other economic  undertakings  planned for 2020. And we  must  welcome the fact that there will be  no budget delay this year.

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