A senator who had consistently denied using pork barrel and exposed the alleged budget insertions of fellow legislators was found to have insertions amounting to P50 billion during Monday’s congressional bicameral committee meeting on the stalled 2019 national government budget.
This came up even as Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said senators introduced P190 billion in insertions or alleged pork barrel in the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.
Andaya said the P190 billion was almost 25 percent bigger than the P51-billion alleged insertions in the House of Representatives.
“The Senate version is seeking an amendment or a total net increase of around P190 billion and the House is requesting for P51 billion,” Andaya told the bicameral conference committee that was opened to reporters on Monday at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City.
Senator Loren Legarda, the chairman of the Senate committee on finance, backed Andaya’s statement and named Senator Panfilo Lacson, the panel’s vice chairman, as the one who introduced almost P50 billion in “institutional amendments” out of the P189.2 billion that the Senate inserted in its version.
“We were supposed to include the institutional amendments of Senator Lacson ... almost P50 billion of that [P189.2-billion] are amendments of the vice chairman [Lacson]. I accepted most of his amendments,” Legarda said.
She said P68 billion out of the P189.2 billion in insertions were unprogrammed funds, or were being requested by various agencies like the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President, Congress, the Interior, Agrarian Reform, Agriculture and Health departments and others.
Lacson, who had consistently criticized the House leadership for its alleged insertions in the national budget, defended his so-called “institutional amendments,” which he said were done by request from various agencies.
“An example of the institutional amendments that I introduced and adopted by the Senate is the P4 billion for the activation of an infantry division. This was requested by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PNP [Philippine National Police],” Lacson told the panel.
Legarda then asked the congressional bicameral conference committee on the 2019 national budget to agree and vote on the ‘institutional amendments’―a proposal that Andaya struck down.
Lacson, a staunch critic of pork barrel, then urged the congressmen “to have a pie with an acceptable figure that you can divide.”
“Why don’t we agree on a pie? We also acknowledge that you congressmen have legislative districts to attend to. Let’s have a certain figure to work on,” Lacson said.
Legarda also said the institutional amendment amounting to almost P800 million was intended for “World Teachers’ Day” this October.
But she was quick to say that those funds were not pork funds.
“Don’t consider that as pork. There is an institutional agency requesting [for it]. It has been vetted by the regional development council, [there’s] a request from barangay, local government units, and provinces. That can’t be considered [pork barrel],’’ Legarda said in defending her action.
But Andaya said institutional amendments were still “insertions” that Lacson had branded earlier as pork barrel, especially if those had come from congressmen.
“That is still insertions. Let’s be fair here and observe transparency,’’ Andaya said.
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