SENATOR Panfilo M. Lacson said Thursday that he is confident that President Rodrigo R. Duterte will veto parts of the P3.757-trillion 2019 budget now awaiting his signature, especially allegedly unauthorized items inserted after the bicameral conference committee approved the spending plan.
“To be honest about it, yes. We’re confident, at least in the Senate, that he will veto (parts of the budget we flagged). This is not a plucked-from-thin-air veto because (internal funding realignments) are wrong. That is why SP (Senate President Vicente C.) Sotto’s (III) attachments (to the enrolled copy of the national budget) were voluminous because we want complete information,” he said.
If no veto comes, “definitely, we’ll respect that because that’s within his authority but it will not prevent us, me particularly, to question. Because if the pork is approved and implemented, the funds are wasted,” he told reporters during the Kapihan sa Senado media forum on Thursday.
“We’re banking on the commitment of the President either publicly or when we met with him in Malacañang, that he will never sign anything that is illegal or unconstitutional,” he added.
Asked if Mr. Lacson plans to question the 2019 national budget over the internal realignments before the Supreme Court, he said he is reviewing his options.
“Not necessarily (before the SC)… It would be a long decision. We did that before in 2014, I think… Nothing happened,” he said.
The 2019 national budget was transmitted to Malacañang on Tuesday after a month-long standoff between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the post-ratification changes made by the House.
Mr. Sotto eventually signed the national budget but expressed “reservations” by attaching a note stating that the provisions added by the House of Representatives after the measure’s ratification on Feb. 8 are unconstitutional.
Members of the House claim that they “itemized” some lump-sum items to clarify how the funds can be spent.
The President’s Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo told reporters on Tuesday that Mr. Duterte will exercise his judgment in agreeing to the changes made by the House of Representatives.
Mr. Lacson warned that the funds will be wasted if the alleged “pork” in the 2019 budget worth P75 billion is approved by the President because the implementing agency will not be able to implement the projects.
“These are the items not vetted by the agencies. This is always my question: If you do not consult the agencies that will implement and who conducted the preparation phase… and (only for it to be) altered whimsically when it came to the Senate and the House, you can just imagine what will happen to those items. It cannot be implemented,” he said.
He once more floated a plan to seek a supplemental budget to fund the House’s internal realignments worth P75 billion under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) if Mr. Duterte vetoed the provisions.
“We’ll make sure that the DPWH is present, because there will be committee hearings, to validate that they can implement it. At least the DPWH is aware. We don’t really mind that much to have infrastructure development in the districts. We really need those,” he said.
“For me, the bottom line is the agencies should be informed so it can be implemented properly,” he added. — Camille A. Aguinaldo