There’s pork in budget— Lacson
Like the ones before it, the proposed P3.767-trillion national budget for 2018 is laden with “billions of pesos” in pork barrel funds, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson raised questions on the floor on Thursday as the Senate started deliberations on the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which featured allocations to certain agencies bigger than those provided by the House version of the bill.
“Our budget is never porkless. Even in 2018, there is pork there,” Lacson told reporters as he pledged to scrutinize the House version, called General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
Lacson said the pork insertions were usually placed in the budgets of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Agriculture.
The Supreme Court has outlawed pork barrel funds.
Pork insertions are also inserted in the National Expenditure Program as presented by Malacañang. According to Lacson, those responsible for the insertions now talk directly with the departments.
He noted a redundant allocation of P5.386 billion for student financial assistance of the DSWD.
“Is DSWD also financing students?” Lacson asked, prompting Sen. Loren Legarda, who sponsored the 2018 GAA on the floor, to say that the budget would fund school-related expenses of indigent families.
Lacson said he heard that congressmen were the ones who identified funds for the DSWD and it was not clear to him where the funds would go.
Senators increased the budgets for, among others, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the rehabilitation of Marawi City, the Philippine National Police, the Department of National Defense, the DPWH and the DSWD.
Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, said the measure was a national expenditure program that President Duterte wanted in order to reduce inequality in society.
She also said that with the expenditure program, Mr. Duterte sought to enhance the social fabric, increase the country’s growth potential, and maintain the foundations for sustainable development.
Legarda said they have fine-tuned the GAA a week after the House turned over its proposed GAB to the Senate.
The Senate allocated P10 billion to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund for Marawi City’s “quick recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation.” The budget is on top of the P5 billion that was given this year for Marawi.
The Senate also proposed a P500-million subsidy for a loan facility for Marawi residents so they could reconstruct their homes. Legarda said the loans would be free of interest but households could only borrow up to P2 million.
She also said they provided an additional P100-million
intelligence fund for the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency so it could prevent a repeat of “Marawi-like crises.”
The Senate provided the National Security Council P36 million in confidential funds and P35 million in situation room funds.
Legarda said they allocated P900 million for the PNP’s campaign against illegal drugs and P1.2 billion for the operational requirements of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
The Senate restored the original budget sought by the CHR of P693.504 million, allotted P350.9 million to the Energy Regulatory Commission and P1.132 billion to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
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