BY all indications, the P4.1 trillion 2020 national budget will undergo some delay. We just hope it won’t be as serious as last year’s.
The problem this time around, as in last year, is the bickering among members of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the issue of pork barrel. Sen. Panfilo Lacson began the affray by publicly charging that a congressman-source informed him that members of the House wanted pork barrel of P1.5 billion for each of the 22 deputy speakers and P700 million for the rest of the congressmen.
Lacson purportedly said that the planned pork barrel could have been inserted in the 2020 General Appropriations Bill but was scrapped even before he divulged the matter to the media.
Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro accused Lacson of being irresponsible and careless, saying the senator has not seen a single line of the General Appropriations Bill and has not studied the proposed budget, thus he has no reason to accuse congressmen of trying to insert their pork-barrel items.
While both Castro and Rep. Mike Defensor called out Lacson for his statements and asked the senator to apologize to the House, Defensor moved a step farther by invoking inter-parliamentary courtesy and urging the Senate leadership to discipline its members.
This got Senate President Vicente Sotto’s goat, who said the congressmen should stick to the business of the House, and that he is not aware of any violation of any member of the Senate.
Another issue cropped up when Senators Drilon and Lacson cautioned the representatives not to insert amendments to the budget after the second and third readings had been made, as required by law.
This feud looms as another hurdle in the way of a smooth legislative action on the 2020 national budget, as even political allies of President Duterte have become principal actors and late joiners in the fray.
May we remind our lawmakers that the economy had suffered, and continues to suffer, from the inordinate delay that hit this year’s budget, and they will just do the nation an even more serious disservice if the 2020 GAA again undergoes the same problem.