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‘Commissions’ spark House fracas—Lacson

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said a ruckus in the House over budget insertions was caused by a fight over “commissions” on pork barrel.

“It’s clear why they are fighting over pork barrel. They’re not going to engage in a fistfight for the country. Let’s face it. There is a fight because of the commission,” Lacson told reporters Wednesday.

“If you talk to contractors, and I’ve talked to them, the rate is 10 percent. They say 10 percent goes to the lawmakers. But they are still shelling out money for the agencies. So it’s still the same. Give or take we waste 20 percent because of corruption and pork barrel,” Lacson said.

Lacson said the fracas in the House would help him and his staff more easily find where pork is hidden in the 2019 budget.

“First of all, we are very grateful to the lawmakers who almost engaged in a fistfight because they made our jobs easier. Instead of us bearing the burden of looking for where the supposed pork is lodged, they already exposed it,” Lacson said.

He said he and his staff would continue to scrutinize the budget to find other insertions. He also assured the public that the administration and opposition senators are united to make sure that the 2019 budget is transparent.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said senators will cross party lines to ensure that the 2019 budget “is transparent and is consistent with the priorities as laid out in the economic plans.”

“What we can assure our people is that we will really scrutinize this. This cannot be concealed,” Drilon said.

“I think the whole Senate is unanimous on this,” said Drilon, when asked if the senators are united about looking into next year’s budget, including the realignment of more than P51 billion by the House of Representatives.

“We will check if this is really needed or if these are projects that are not a priority, and where the funds came from. It’s a question now of whether it’s a correct prioritization of projects for which public funds will be allocated,” Drilon said.

The opposition leader also warned against the danger in retaining the realignment, saying this was prone to corruption.

The House was convened into a committee of the whole Tuesday in a bid to resolve the questionable P51.7 billion alleged insertions by having the amount realigned to specific departments such as Education, Health, Agriculture and Public Works and Highways.

“The approved amendments in the budget will be itemized. There will be no post-enactment identification which is prohibited,” House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. said.

Andaya said the proposed General Appropriations Budget for 2019, as contained in House Bill 8169, “complies with laws and judicial decisions on public expenditures.”

Compostela Valley Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, in her sponsorship speech, said the government has to borrow almost P1 trillion to provide funds for the ambitious projects of the Duterte administration.

Zamora, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said P1.189 trillion or a total of P906.2-billion will be borrowed domestically while the government will get the remaining 24 percent or P282.7-billion from foreign creditors.

“Of the total borrowings, P624.4 billion will be used to finance the deficit, settle P146.3 billion in maturing debt obligations, and the balance includes contributions to the bond sinking fund, and to maintain sufficient cushion of cash in the Treasury,” Zamora said in her speech.

She said the Bureau of Internal Revenue is expected to collect P2.331 trillion in revenues while the Bureau of Customs will collect P662.2 billion and other agencies of the government will generate P25 billion to support the national expenditures program next year.

“The balance of 5.9 percent will come from non-tax revenues amounting to P188.3 billion while P2 billion is expected from the sale of government assets,” said Zamora.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, the House committee on appropriation’s chairman, gave way to Zamora to put to rest the issue on the alleged insertions in the budget.

Nograles, whose committee approved HB 8169 early this month, said the amended committee report on the budget bill would restore P51.7 billion and subsequently provide additional funding for the Department of Education, state universities and colleges, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Public Works and Highways.

He said the new Committee Report adopted by the House majority was an improvement as it would address the budget cuts suffered by SUCs, as well as agencies like the DepEd and DoH.

“This is a better version of the budget measure that was approved by the committee of the whole. Because we see that from the reductions, the P51.7 billion were realigned to DepEd for school buildings, DoH for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program, and state universities and colleges,” Nograles said.

Aside from highlighting the realignments in the budget, Nograles also disputed claims that the National Expenditure Program submitted by the Executive Branch, as well as the budget to be tackled on the floor, had congressional insertions, or “pork.”

“First of all, we stick by the position that it is impossible for any insertions to be done in the NEP because that purely comes from the Executive Department. If you ask DBM if you ask the economic

managers, if you ask Malacañang, they’re also sticking by the position that this is the Executive Branch’s budget,” Nograles said.

“Everything that was submitted and inside the NEP is what was submitted by the executive,” he added.

Topics: Senator Panfilo Lacson , pork barrel , Franklin Drilon , House of Representatives
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