DEPUTY Speaker for finance Luis Raymond Villafuerte yesterday asked Sen. Panfilo Lacson to specify which parts of the House-approved version of the P4.1 trillion proposed national budget for 2020 are questionable, saying there is no “pork” or even “parked” funds in the budget.
For one, Villafuerte said the P4 billion assistance to Local Government Units (LGUs) that the senator is questioning “has very strict guidelines (to be released).”
“Initially, he (Lacson) said there’s pork, now he has the (budget) documents, it’s transparent and he scrutinized it. He said there’s no pork and that for the first time, this Congress is well-behaved. After a few days, he says there is (pork) but the question is what is that P20 billion really?” Villafuerte told ANC.
The lawmaker, a stalwart of the Nacionalista Party, said even President Duterte is wondering what part of the budget Lacson is questioning.
“In fact the President said, ‘point it out and we’ll take it out and up to this date, there’s no line-item document saying (that) there is, so we remain firm on our stand and the document speaks for itself – there’s no pork, there’s no parking,” the lawmaker said.
“Parking” refers to the previous practice of listing of items under the budget of a congressional district so that it could be used for a different project in a different district.
Lacson earlier said some of the unclear allocations are “parked” in the budgets of Public Works and Interior and Local Government departments.
He admitted however that these cannot be considered as “pork” since the proposals came from the executive which included it in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) and which is assumed to have been vetted properly by the various agencies.
Villafuerte said everything is itemized in the budget and since he reviewed it again, he can say with certainty that the P4 billion allocation for “other financial assistance to LGUs” which is part of the P20 billion is definitely not pork because there is strict guidelines for its release.
He said the guidelines did not come from Congress but was submitted by Malacañang to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
“It did not originate from Congress but it’s a good program assistance to local government units’ need and there are guidelines here, they’re very strict, how to avail and disburse it,” he said. “It specifically says that it’s for LGUs. However, he (Lacson) did not point out that when you disburse that, there are guidelines, it’s a 30-page document on how to disburse that fund,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte said the P4 billion budget is for the various needs of LGUs which need funds for the environment, water, infrastructure, calamity, and others.
“It’s (under a) very strict (list of) guidelines. I’m sure it has passed through scrutiny through COA (Commission on Audit), too,” he said, adding the fund was included in the budget because mayors and governors often request funds from the Office of the President, especially for calamities which is naturally “unplanned.”
He pointed out that Lacson did not question the calamity budget for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), for one, “because you do not know when and where calamity will strike you so these are things you need to put in the budget.”
He also urged Lacson to specify the P10.4 billion allegedly stashed in the DPWH budget, saying “there’s no such thing” as far as he knows.
“He should really tell us the amount, so we can correct it. There’s no detailed explanation up to now unlike the P4 billion which we clearly saw but it’s not really parked or pork so we’d ask again if Sen. Ping can detail where that is,” he said.
Villafuerte said the P500 million allocation for the rehabilitation of Kennon Road is actually a “typographical error” because as far as he remembers, it was only pegged at P15 million.
“Like what I’ve said, out of a 3,500 page document, that’s the only thing he saw and it was typo so it really shows that the budget is good,” he said.
Baguio Rep. Mark Go earlier disowned the Kennon road project, saying it was under the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) National Capital Region Office in the NEP and not his initiative.