MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson disclosed the multibillion worth of realignments he is proposing under the P3.757-trillion budget for 2019, and he is hoping his colleagues would do the same.
Lacson made the appeal on Tuesday, January 29, a day after it was revealed during the bicameral conference committee meeting that senators were seeking to realign almost P190 billion under the 2019 budget – way higher than the P51 billion realignment proposed by the House of Representatives.
“In the spirit of transparency, I instructed my staff to make public all my amendments in the 2019 national budget. I hope all proponents will do the same to remove all suspicions that the bicameral conference is a venue for sneaky horse trading among legislators,” said Lacson.
During the bicam on Monday, January 28, Senate committee on finance chairperson Loren Legarda said Lacson wanted to realign some P50 billion in the 2019 budget. The Senate already adopted these proposed realignments as well, but the bicam had yet to finalize the amount.
Both Legarda and Lacson, however, were quick to argue that the realignments should not be considered as a form of the now-unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel.
They said these were “institutional amendments” or proposed realignments that lawmakers initiated because the departments concerned requested them first.
In a separate media statement, Lacson’s staff listed some of the major realignments that the senator wanted under the 2019 budget:
According to Lacson, his proposed realignments were guided by 3 reasons: need, planning, and vetting.
"Our taxpayers can thus sleep well knowing there is no room for 'pork' with these institutional amendments,” said Lacson.
Lacson had previously accused the House of passing a pork-riddled 2019 budget, sparking the string of controversies now hounding the proposed annual national budget.
Andaya had admitted that each congressman is getting P60 million to fund their pet projects, while senators supposedly got P200 million each.
The national government is operating on a reenacted budget – or the same appropriations as in 2018 – because of Congress' failure to pass the proposed budget for 2019 before December 31, 2018.
The bicam has so far agreed to remove all allocations for dredging projects in the 2019 budget, in a bid to lessen sources of corruption in government.
The bicam was supposed to meet on Tuesday evening again, but this was cancelled because senators were not yet finished itemizing where every penny under the P190 billion would go. – Rappler.com