PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte will veto any funds in the proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget that will be proven to have been allocated in an irregular manner, Malacañang said on Tuesday, adding that the President will “scrutinize” the budget as soon as it reaches his table.
“With respect doon sa allegation of ‘pork’, it’s always the President who will decide. The President is a lawyer. If from his legal point of view it is unconstitutional relative to this alleged ‘pork’, then he will veto that as he did prior to this budget,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said at a briefing in Malacañang when asked about Senator Panfilo M. Lacson’s allegation that each congressman will get P700 million for his or her district from the proposed 2020 budget, while the 22 deputy speakers will get P1.5 billion each.
Mr. Lacson aired his allegations following a statement by Albay-2nd district Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda, vice-chairman of the House Appropriations committee, that each congressmen will each get P100 million to allocate to projects in his or her district. Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, chairman of the chamber’s Finance committee, said this would be acceptable, provided the allocations were “pre-determined.”
“It is his (Mr. Duterte’s) constitutional duty to scrutinize the budget,” Mr. Panelo told reporters.
House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez and Capiz 2nd district Rep. Fredenil H. Castro on Tuesday called on Senator Panfilo M. Lacson to name his source, which the latter said was a House insider. “Nalulungkot po kami kasi hindi natin alam kung saan po galing ‘yan… But at this point right now, nobody seems to know where that’s coming from and it would be helpful if the good senator can help us ferret out the truth by revealing to us the sources and the details of this information,” said Mr. Romualdez in a press conference.
In the same briefing, Mr. Castro said: “I do not believe that there is a congressman or there are congressmen responsible for this information. Because similar disinformation was spread during the 2019 budget and not one was presented to prove or verify the alleged information.”
“… [H]ow could there be pork in the General Appropriation Bill just recently approved by the House of the Representatives when it has not even been submitted to the Senate yet for its scrutiny?”
A row between the Senate and the House of Representatives late last year over funds inserted after the spending plan had already been ratified by Congress caused Mr. Duterte to sign this year’s national budget into law nearly four months late on Apr. 15, vetoing P95.3 billion in allocations he said were not in sync with his administration’s priorities and slashing the total to P3.662 trillion.
The House on Sept. 20 approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 4228, or the proposed General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2020, ahead of a self-imposed Oct. 4 deadline.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto on Tuesday said the House’ early approval of the budget will give the Senate ample time to scrutinize the proposal.
“Ito ang maganda kung matatapos ng maaga ito — let’s say second or last week ng November nag third reading kami; pagpasok ng first week ng December, nagba-bicam na kami. Nandoon na ’yung tinatawag na debate, balasahang mabuti (It is good for us to finish this work early — let’s say third-reading approval in the second or last week of November; and then we can have bicameral conference meetings to harmonize differences in the first week of December. It is there that we will have debate and close examination of the budget),” Mr. Sotto said over radio interview with dzMM.
“‘Yung bicam, alam mo naman yun, matindi ang sikuhin doon… (You know that there is considerable debate in the bicameral conference committee).”
Mr. Angara had earlier said that the chamber targets transmitting the budget to Malacañang for signing into law by Dec. 15. — Arjay L. Balinbin and Charmaine A. Tadalan and Vince Angelo C. Ferrera