By Daniel Llanto
FilAm Star Correspondent
Senators led by Panfilo Lacson promised to put through the wringer the proposed PHP4.1trillion budget for 2020 earlier approved by the House of Representatives on misgivings of attempts to bring back the unscrupulous pork barrel system with its allocation of PHP100 million for each of the 300 House members.
The admission of PHP100-million allocation for each member of the House under the proposed 2020 national budget “won’t sit well” with senators, Lacson said.
Earlier, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda revealed that each lawmaker at the House would receive at least PHP100 million in 2020 for their pet projects.
“It won’t sit well with us, sa akin particularly, because hindi dapat pare-pareho ang allocations for each congressional district,” the Senator told reporters. “It should be need-based and priority–based. Because there are districts that would need more than other districts,’’ Lacson added.
While Salceda said the hefty allocation is already itemized in the 2020 National Expenditure Program (NEP), Lacson said he could not tell yet with certainty if it could be considered as “pork barrel” as the House of Representatives has yet to transmit to the Senate their final version of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
“Nasaan ang items? Ano ang description? Kung in-introduce pa lang nila as individual amendments, na bawat isa PHP100 million, if it is not pork, I don’t know what it is,” said Lacson, referring to the Priority Development Assistance Fund that lawmakers previously misused with impunity.
Lacson revealed that he received information from several congressmen that lawmakers even originally planned to give each a PHP700-million with the 22 House deputy speakers to receive PHP1.5 billion each.
“I hope that does not push through because that was a report transmitted to my office by some congressmen themselves na ‘yan pinag-usapan nila,” he said.
“When we are talking of PHP700 million per congressman, times PHP300 million, that’s PHP21 billion. Plus PHP33 billion per deputy speaker kung matutuloy, PHP54 billion in pork,” Lacson added.
The Senator, however, assured that the budget will be passed before the end of this year as long as the House transmits the GAB before Congress goes on break on October 4.
The House earlier approved on third and final reading the proposed 2020 national budget.
However, the House formed a small committee that would collate and approve until September 23 the congressmen’s individual and institutional amendments to the budget bill.
Salceda told CNN Philippines that lawmakers are entitled to a PHP100 million allocation under the proposed 2020 national budget. “Of course, there are allocations for my constituents. Who determined it? The Chief Executive,” he told reporters.
“Pina-process na po ‘yan sa ng mga executive department, executive agencies…We propose for the inclusion of the allocation,” he said.
Of the PHP100 million for each congressman, Salceda said PHP70 million is allotted for “hard” or infrastructure projects, while PHP30 million is for “soft” projects such as medical and educational assistance for constituents.
Salceda however denied that the allocations are “pork” since the PHP100 million cannot be considered as a lump-sum amount. “It is pork-free based on Supreme Court standards,” he said.
The “pork barrel” system in Congress was abolished in late 2013 when the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.
The House next week is set to approve the proposed PHP4.1-trillion 2020 national budget, a testament to the influence of President Duterte’s allies in the chamber.
“We just want to prove that the so-called Duterte super coalition in the House is working,” Salceda said.