No pork in 2019 P3.76-T budget proposal, says DBM chief
Tatay Digong is no Gloria.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno has assured the public that the Duterte administration’s proposed P3.76-trillion budget for 2019 will not be lost to corruption, quelling fears that Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo might hold out pork to certain lawmakers to win their loyalty.
Now that the possibility of the national government operating on a reenacted budget became imminent, Diokno insisted that the National Expenditure Program the administration had prepared was pork-free.
Pork finances pet projects of lawmakers.
Diokno said the move was in deference to the decision of the Supreme Court, which struck down pork barrel programs as unconstitutional.
In 2013, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and its earlier version, the Countrywide Development Fund, as these violated the principle of separation of powers between Congress and Malacañang.
The court said these funds allowed lawmakers to identify projects after the national budget had been passed.
Under line item budgeting, Diokno said lawmakers would be allowed to identify projects before the national budget was approved.
He described as “misplaced” Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s apprehension that “happy pork barrel days” may be back after Arroyo wrested the leadership of the House of Representatives from Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.
“President Duterte is not [Arroyo]. He is very strong in [his] anticorruption [drive],” Diokno said at the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum on Tuesday.
Arroyo’s nine-year stay in Malacañang was wracked by several corruption scandals, including the P10 billion in PDAF scam in which lawmakers channeled the funds to ghost projects in exchange for kickbacks.
Despite this, the President seemed comfortable working with the Arroyo.
Diokno agreed with Arroyo’s previous statement that all legislative districts in the country, including those occupied by opposition lawmakers, would receive their fair share of the budget as ordered by the President.
The funds, however, were different from the lump-sum allocations that lawmakers used to get, he reiterated.
In fact, Diokno said lawmakers could actually get as much as P200 million “depending on whether you are hardworking and you are able to convince the respective department to justify” the request for funding for their legislative district.
“These are projects that are supposed to benefit residents of those districts. They are not pork barrel. Call it [by] any other name, but not pork barrel,” he maintained.
“I’m [being] consistent here. Our budget is consistent with the Supreme Court decision,” he added.
Diokno said Arroyo understood how powerful the executive branch would be if the current stalemate between the House and the budget department would result in a reenacted budget for 2019.
He noted that Arroyo had three reenacted budgets during her presidency, which the opposition then suspected was intentional as it gave her more leeway to juggle public funds to chosen departments and congressional districts.
“Coming to an election year,” he said, “that speaks volume of what we can do with the money. But I tell you we will not do what they did. We will stick by the rules.”
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