P15M ‘cut and paste’ budget insertion?

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    SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday slammed a P15 million budget for road improvement in the House of Representative’s version of the proposed 2020 national budget.

    In a post in his Twitter account, Lacson said the allocation appeared to have been “cut and paste’ from the original request.

    He did not identify the project proponent but said the road improvement works was intended for the Cagayan Valley region.

    “Poring through the National Expenditure Program vs House version of the budget bill, one project worth 15 million pesos is annoyingly described, ‘Requesting for the improvement of a road.’ It’s interesting to find out how they can implement a request,” Lacson said.

    “Initially, I look at it as sloppy work since it appears to be ‘cut and paste’ from the original request as submitted by the proponent,” he added.

    Lacson said it was the only sloppy work he had found so far in his initial comparison of the Malacañang-drafted annual national budget and the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) approved by the House last September 20. The GAB was transmitted to and received by the Senate last October 1.

    The senator, a staunch advocate against “pork barrel” in the national budget, promised to thoroughly scrutinize the House version.

    Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, a senior vice chair of the House committee on appropriations, took exception to Lacson’s statement, saying he might have been referring to the opposition bloc because the administration congressmen did a good job in reviewing the GAB.

    “Is 30 days equivalent to sloppy work? I don’t think so,” he told reporters. “The House did a good job. It’s probably the opposition that did sloppy work.”

    Salceda said it was President Duterte and the Executive department that “won” because the House-approved version of the budget is still almost identical to the NEP submitted by the Palace to Congress.

    The lawmaker however said the House “will always respect the Senate” in the same way that senators “could not interfere with us.”

    Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. France Castro, a member of the minority bloc, said however that the opposition did its job of scrutinizing the annual budget proposal by revealing its questionable items.

    “Hindi ang paglalantad ng mga tumuligsa sa anti-people 2020 budget ang dapat tukuying ‘sloppy work’ ng House leadership kundi ang sariling mga kilos at proseso niya (The ones who criticized the anti-people 2020 budget should not be the ones accused of doing sloppy work but their (majority bloc) own actions and processes),” she said.

    Castro said “the administration and the Lower House that it dominates are the ones responsible for the 2020 budget the approval of which they ran through the House last month with as little scrutiny and public proceedings as possible.”

    Lacson said that if indeed the House only realigned the publicly-announced P9.5 billion and did not sneak in pork allocations for their districts, the GAB will see a swift approval in the Senate.

    “If the announcement of the House leadership that they realigned only P9.5 billion worth of items to agencies like the NFA, DOH, DepEd and the like, which are apparently institutional, with the permission of my colleagues and SP (Senate President Vicente III) Sotto, I might recommend that we simply adopt the House version,” Lacson said.

    If the Senate adopts the House’s GAB, there will be no need for a bicameral conference to thresh out issues related to the budget.

    “Kung meron mang may plano na sa bicameral isingit ang insertion or realignment, eh ‘di napurnada na sila (If there were lawmakers who were planning on making insertions or realignments in the bicameral level, their plans cannot push through anymore),” Lacson said.

    Lacson had earlier called the attention of lawmakers from the House of Representative against inserting pork funds for their congressional districts in the proposed 2020 national budget. He engaged several House members in a verbal clash after Albay Rep. Joey Salceda revealed in a press briefing that each congressional district will have P100 million in allocations under the 2020 budget. – With Wendell Vigilia