‘Pork claims in 2020 budget exaggerated’

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    AN administration lawmaker yesterday branded as “exaggerated” the allegations of “pork” made by Sen. Panfilo Lacson against the House of Representatives in relation to the next year’s proposed P4.1-trillion national budget.

    “The issue was just exaggerated,” said Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon. “If we are not even allowed to recommend, then what is our essence and usefulness in the district? Are we just worthless figureheads?”

    Leachon said House members will be reduced to “worthless figureheads” if they are stripped of their power to recommend projects to be funded by their congressional allocations.

    Leachon, the head of the House of Representatives’ Electoral Tribunal (HRET), said that as representatives of districts, congressmen are in the best position to know what priority projects their constituents need.

    He said congressmen only recommend projects to be funded under the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) and “the listings are vetted by the DPWH if they are feasible, viable and efficiently significant to implement.”

    The projects are itemized in the GAB, consequently obliterating the discretion of house members, Leachon said.

    “The issue was just exaggerated since time immemorial, it has been the issue but really there’s no pork,” said the PDP-Laban stalwart.

    Like other elected positions, Leachon said lawmakers “are voted based on dual performance – as a legislator and as channels of development projects.”

    “If we can’t perform, reelection bid will never be in sight. (So) as long as projects are effectively implemented, there’s no point in engaging in nonsense argumentation,” he said.
    Lacson earlier lambasted the House after Albay Rep. Joey Salceda disclosed last month that each congressional district will receive P100 million in allocations next year.

    Another House leader, Cavite Rep. Abrahama “Bambol” Tolentino, chairman of the House committee on accounts, later divulged on the floor that the House will need an additional P1.6 billion for fiscal year 2020 during the plenary deliberations on the GAB, prompting Lacson to criticize congressmen again.

    It turned out that the House only had a total of P9.5 billion in institutional amendments in the GAB, which Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano stressed was still almost identical to the NEP.
    Of these institutional amendments, the biggest chunk of P3 billion will go to the Department of Agriculture’s proposed budget for the purchase of palay (unhusked rice).

    Leachon advised senators to observe inter-parliamentary courtesy “and if they (senators) have serious reservations on the House version of the NEP (National Expenditure Program), they have all the right to vote against it.”

    “This is after all the essence of democracy. Members both of the Senate and Congress are undoubtedly men of their own and would not be instrumental in the proliferation of what the law obviously prohibits and crystally unconstitutional,” he said.

    While he is not a close ally of the Speaker, Leachon said Cayetano, “in all fairness, has been fair and clearly in point that insertions of discretionary pork barrel funds shall not be included in any of the members’ district funds and neither will they be part of the NEP that we passed on third and final reading.”