Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
As congressmen celebrated the "early passage" of the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, Senator Panfilo Lacson pointed out that the lower chamber still has a lot of work to do.
In a media interview on Monday, September 23, Lacson said the House lawmakers have yet to introduce their amendments to the budget bill, which will take more time to complete.
"It is wrong to conclude that they passed the House version of the budget in record time because they have not done [the period of amendments] yet," Lacson said.
"They will still introduce their committee amendments and even their individual amendments. Ito ang mas tedious (This is the more tedious part)," the senator said.
On Friday, September 20, a total of 257 lawmakers approved the general appropriations bill (GAB) minutes after the plenary passed the measure on second reading.
Only 6 lawmakers, all under the Makabayan bloc, opposed its passage over lack of transparency.
Congressmen will just introduce their amendments when the bicameral conference committee convenes – a move that would give the upper chamber less time to scrutinize the proposed changes in the GAB.
Lacson said the alleged P100 million allocation per congressman for their pet projects would "not sit well" with him, if it were true.
House appropriations committee vice chairperson Joey Salceda claimed that the allocation consists of P70 million worth of infrastructure funds while the remaining P30 million would be for "soft" projects like medical and education assistance.
But Lacson said that every district has varying needs and may not necessarily require uniform allocation for all.
"It won’t sit well with us, sa akin particularly, because hindi dapat pare-pareho ang allocation sa districts (with me particularly, because the allocation per district shouldn't be the same)," Lacson said.
"It should be need-based and priority–based. Because there are districts that would need more than other districts," he added.
But since the GAB has yet to reach the upper chamber, Lacson said they have yet to see the line items for themselves.
"Hindi pa natin nakikita. It’s just an admission made by Representative Salceda. For all we know, he may be disowned by some of his colleagues dahil siya lang nagsalita, wala pang nag-confirm," Lacson said.
(We haven't seen it yet. It's just an admission made by Representative Salceda. For all we know, he may be disowned by some of his colleagues because he's the only one who revealed it, and nobody else had confirmed the claim.)
The lower chamber fast-tracked the passage of the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for next year, in a bid to avoid a repeat of last year's budget deadlock over unconstitutional insertions.