SPEAKER Alan Peter S. Cayetano said Monday that the 2020 National Budget currently with Malacañang complies with Supreme Court rulings against pork barrel items, and cited Palace estimates that it will be signed by Jan. 6, 2020 at the latest.

“Kausap ko si ES (Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea)… sabi niya latest, latest na daw yung Jan. 6 (As per my conversation with the executive secretary, he believes the budget will be signed by Jan. 6 at the latest),” Mr. Cayetano said in a news conference.

“As defined by the Supreme Court, wala talagang pork. As a general rule, lahat naman pwede mong i-corrupt ehh… so ang question may projects ba na inherently masyadong lapitin sa corruption, like lump sum na pork barrel, na ang discretion na sa congressman kaya pwedeng bagu-baguhin at pwedeng utusan saan ilagay. Wala po lahat yan (There is no pork as the Supreme Court defines it. As a general rule, everything is subject to corruption, so the question is whether some projects are inherently prone to corruption, like lump-sum pork barrel spending, where the congressman has wide latitude in changing spending priorities. There is none of that here)” Mr. Cayetano said.

He added that the Malacañang received the bill on Monday only because of printing delays.

“So today lang na-receive ng Malacañang because of the printing. Nung una ni-ra-rush naming kahit 25 copies muna at 4 volumes. We want sufficient time to look at it. Kahit may soft copy i-co-compare mo pa rin, printed copy ang pipirmahan diba? Pero nagbigay naman kami ng double assurance kasi ang mag e-execute naman ng budget eh yung executive branch (The Place received the budget today, Monday,” We wanted initially to rush 25 copies in four volumes. We want sufficient time to look at it. Even though there is a soft copy you still need to compare the versions, because it’s the printed copy that gets signed. We gave our double assurance of a compliant budget because the executive branch will have to execute it),” Mr. Cayetano said.

The government operated on a reenacted budget between January and April after the Senate and the House of Representatives failed to pass the 2019 General Appropriations Act by the new year.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte was only able to sign the budget in April after vetoing P95 billion worth of realigned funds traced to House legislators.

On Dec. 11, the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the P4.1 trillion budget. — Genshen L. Espedido