THE Senate will provide President Duterte the details of the P83 billion eleventh-hour insertions made by the House of Representatives in the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for next year in the hopes that the Chief Executive will veto them.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in an interview with radio dzBB, said he discussed the move with Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate finance committee chairman Juan Edgardo Angara, who both allegedly agreed to tell the President about the insertions made before the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) that was signed and approved by the bicameral conference committee on Wednesday morning.
Lacson said the list of projects that were inserted by the House bicameral contingent included undertakings that “are vague and/or have no descriptions or no specific details.”
The projects include the repair/rehab of road network for the second district of Marikina City for P15 million, repair/rehab of road network in barangay Tumana also in the amount of P15 million, asphalt overlay of various roads in barangay North Fairview for P25 million.
Also inserted were concreting/road widening of roads in Alaminos City, Pangasinan for P15 million, concreting/widening of a road in Tumauni, Isabela for P30 million, road construction in Apalit, Pampanga worth P18 million, construction of a road in Candaba, Pampanga for P22 million, and road rehabilitation in Balayan, Batangas for P10 million.
The list also included a road rehabilitation project in Lemery, Batangas for P10 million, road rehab in Nasugbu, Batangas for P10 million, and asphalt overlay in a road in Catbalogan City, Samar for P50 million.
Lacson said uniform allocations of P60 million each were also given for flood control projects in Bacon district in Sorsogon, in barangay Gulang-gulang in Irosin, Sorsogon; an upstream also in barangay Gulang-gulang, Irosin; in barangay Osiao, Bacon district in Sorsogon; another upstream in barangay Gulan-gulang in Irosin; in barangay San Antonio, Tabaco City, Albay; a left side upstream, again, in barangay Gulang-gulang, Irosin; phase 2 of Mawab River in Compostela Valley; and in barangay Masarawang, Guinobatan, Albay.
Lacson said the last-minute insertions were part of the billions of pesos worth of projects which were deleted during the deliberations for the proposed 2019 budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways.
“Ang information na natanggap namin na ang tinanggal nung isang taon (2019) dahil vineto ng Presidente ay gusto i-recover ng ilang kongresista sa pamamagitan na naman ng 2020 budget. Kaya ayaw nilang tumigil
(The information we got was these were the same projects deleted in the 2019 budget because they were vetoed by the President which a number of congressmen want to recover through the 2020 budget. That’s why they will never stop),” Lacson said.
He said the Senate cannot influence the President to veto the items but at least they can inform him of the questionable amendments.
“Of course we cannot influence the President. But we can, inform naman Mr. President, tulad ng ginawa namin noong nakaraang taon (Of course we cannot influence the President, But we can, we will inform Mr. President just like what we did last year in the ratified budget),” Lacson said.
He also said: “Pero at least itong Pangulo ngayon nakita natin kaya, malaki ang pag-asa ko na pag pinagbigay alam ng aming SP sa kanya ang listahan ng mga ito na naman abuso na mga proyekto na alam nating walang kahihinatnan kundi puro sa kalokohan lang, malaki pag-asa natin na ibi–veto niya uli ito dahil ginawa na niya last year (Our President has the courage to veto them. We have high hopes that he will veto these projects once he sees the list of the vague projects, the allocations for which will surely go to waste).”
Government ran on a re-enacted budget for the first four months of 2019 due to an impasse in the approval of the money measure after Sotto refused to sign the 2019 GAB because of the P95-billion insertions made by the House, which was made even after the budget bill was already signed and approved by the bicameral conference committee.
Lacson had said the insertions in the 2019 budget were made while the House was printing the GAB prior to its delivery to the President for his signature.
Lacson clarified there is nothing wrong with solons introducing amendments to the proposed national budget but it should be made during floor deliberations and not during the bicam since the congressional panel merely reconciles the differences in the House and Senate versions of the budget.
Lacson said he can at least allow the amendments made during the bicam but said that it was very obvious that the amounts inserted were “pork” as they were not detailed.
“Ok na rin ‘yan, pero kinukwestyon ko lang, huwag naman ang lump sum, huwag ang hindi malinaw ang description. Kasi papayagan naman din natin, hindi tayo kikibo kung malinaw ang description ng mga item. Kasi kung hindi malinaw, saan ‘yan? Magkano dapat ‘yan?
May halaga pero kung lahat round figure, ang napansin namin sa nadala na USB, lahat round figure. 25M, 50M, 60M, 100M, pare-pareho ba ang halaga ng mga proyekto? Di ba dapat may butal-butal kasi program of works ‘yan? (That is okay but do not include lump sum appropriations, don’t insert projects which are vaguely described. We can allow amendments during the bicam, we can be silent about it if the descriptions are clear. But I have observed that the amounts for the projects were rounded figures –P25M, P50M, P60M, P100M. Are these projects the same? The cost of each project should not have a rounded figure because those are program of works),” he said.
With the pork insertions, Lacson said the government has been incurring huge losses since big portions of the appropriations for such projects go to the pockets of solons via commissions earned from contractors.
Lacson earlier disclosed that P83.219 billion worth of 1,253 projects were inserted by congressmen, which he said were contained in the “source” and “list” files saved in a USB that was given by the House contingent to the Senate.
The funding, he said, seemed to have been the source of the P16.345 billion allotted for 742 projects that were also part of the USB files.
In a separate phone patch interview with Senate reporters, Lacson said based on his initial findings, the questionable amount is the P16.345 billion for the 742 projects.
He said he believes that the last-minute insertions could be bigger than P16.345 billion.
“Tuloy-tuloy ang pag-scrutinize kasi hanggang hindi pa enrolled ang bill may pag-asa pang ma-veto ‘yan (We will continue to scrutinize while it is not yet an enrolled bill and the chances of it being vetoed is still high),” he said.