SEN. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson yesterday said lawmakers should make public their individual amendments to the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for the sake of transparency.
Lacson, a hawk-eye against “pork” in the annual government appropriation, said senators and congressmen should post their amendments in their respective websites, similar to what he did last year.
“Tutal may websites kami, para open sa mamamahayag na ito mga amendment ni congressman so and so, senator so and so, para maliwanag, at bahala ang publiko suriin kung itong mga amendment ay para sa kapakanan ng bayan o kapakanan ng mambabatas (Anyway all of us have websites. It’s better if they post their amendments so it will be open to all – these are the amendments of congressman so and so, senator so and so – and we will be given a chance to explain them. Now it is up to the public to scrutinize if that amendment will benefit the public or the lawmakers),” Lacson said.
The senator said lawmakers should do away with the practice of just listing down their amendments in a piece of paper and handing these to the respective finance or appropriations chairpersons of the House of Representatives and the Senate without having these undergo floor deliberations.
Lacson said the public needs to know where their taxes are going, especially amid the growing national debt that now stands at more than P7.9 trillion as of September this year from last year’s P6 trillion.
He said borrowing money from foreign investors is good only if all of it is utilized in basic public services, such an infrastructure projects, but lamented it is otherwise if they are not spent properly.
He noted that in 2001, the national budget stood only at P800 billion but has increased through the years. Last year the national budget was P3.7 trillion, and for this year the proposed national budget is P4.1 trillion.
“Ang tanong doon, gumala tayo sa buong Pilipinas, nakita ba natin ang exponential increase ng ating national budget na commensurate sa nakita nating development? Parang hindi eh. (The question is, if we go around the country, can we see an exponential increase of our national budget commensurate to the development we see? I think not),” he said.
Lacson made the suggestion after he noted P20 billion worth of “problematic items” in the proposed General Appropriations Bill (GAB) transmitted by the House.
Among these were two items involving infrastructure projects intended for Kennon Road in Baguio City, of which one amounted to P507 million and the other P70 million. Both road projects did not contain details in the GAB.
He said another problematic item in the proposed budget was a P4 billion “assistance to LGUs (local government units) budget which the Department of Interior and Local Government does not know how to spend.”
Lacson has earlier said that while reviewing the House’s GAB, he noticed “unclear” allocations worth P20 billion “parked” in different government agencies such as the DPWH and the DILG.
He said the lump sum allocations did not have details on how they will be disbursed, the reason why they caught his attention.
Lacson said he will clarify these allocations when the Senate deliberates on the budget.
“Hindi pa natin kino-conclude na pork barrel ‘yan, pero sa definition ng SC nung naglabas ng decision dito, kapag lump sum at parang tantamount or open sa abuse of discretion, sabi ng SC, pork din ‘yan kasi ma-abuse ang discretion ng paggamit. (We are not concluding that these are pork barrel, but according to the Supreme Court which came out with a decision on this, if it is lump sum and it is tantamount or open to abuse of discretion, the SC ruled that that is pork because discretion for its use can be abused),” he added.
Based on their schedule, the Senate finance committee will sponsor the GAB on Nov. 11 and deliberations will follow for the rest of the session days of November. The Senate is expected to approve its version of the national budget by the first week of December. The bicameral conference committee is expected to convene soon after the Senate approval.
Congress is targeting to finish the budgetary approval before it adjourns for its Holiday break on December 18.
If the bicameral panel cannot ratify the budget before the break, Lacson said they might be forced to call for a special session “or worse baka mag-reenact (we will have a reenacted budget).”