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Insertions in 2019 budget not ‘pork,’ not ‘irregular’ — Biazon

/ 04:53 PM September 18, 2018

A lawmaker on Tuesday said that the P55-billion insertions in the proposed 2019 national budget are not irregular or illegal.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano “Ruffy” Biazon, vice chair of the powerful House appropriations panel, made this statement after Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday insinuated that an attempt to slash the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget by some P55 billion had caused a conflict among some members of the lower chamber.

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READ: House leaders bicker over ‘pork’

The conflict has also stalled the scheduled plenary deliberations last Monday.

READ: ‘Insertions,’ brewing conflict delay House plenary debates on 2019 budget

Biazon clarified that not all “insertions” could be considered as “pork barrel,” or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.

“To a common person, any insertion in the budget by Congress is pork barrel,” he told reporters in Tagalog. “I think we should be reminding people that the appropriations always originate  from the House. So as far as Congressmen are concerned, this is a regular course of our duty whatever is approved in the Genaral Appropriations bill.”

“I would say there’s nothing irregular about it. That’s the job of appropriations,” he further explained. “Legally, wala akong nakikita na ano pa ah , based on my experience… Definitely, magiging illegal siya kung lalampas dun sa budget proposal ng Presidente.”

(Legally, I don’t see anything wrong based on my experience…Definitely it would be illegal if the amount exceeds the budget proposal of the President.)

Even House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez has denied that “insertions” in some lawmakers’ budget for 2019 could be considered as “pork” or lump sum discretionary fund.

READ: Suarez denies ‘pork’ insertion in 2019 budget

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‘Insertions’

Biazon said insertions are regularly proposed by lawmakers during the budget process.

“Wala naman kasing official definition ng insertion. Common definition mo dyan is something initiated or proposed by members of Congress outside what the President’s budget proposal is… It could come from any stage of the process. Pwedeng (It could be) during the course of the deliberations, or during hearings,” he said.

(There is no official definition for ‘insertion.’ The common definition is that it is something initiated or or proposed by members of Congress outside what the President’s budget proposal is… It could come from any stage of the process.  It could be during the course of the deliberations, or during hearings.)

“Definitely magiging illegal siya kung lalampas dun sa budget proposal ng Presidente (Definitely, it would be illegal if it exceeds the budget proposal of the President),” he added.

The guide of  the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) of the House confirms this. It states that “new items of expenditure may also be introduced at this (budget authorization) stage, provided that these do not increase the size of the budget as submitted by the President (Constitution-Article VI, Sec. 25).”

Questions

Biazon said some of his colleagues were just questioning where these supposed insertions would go.

“Some are basically just asking saan ba papunta ‘yan and it’s within the duty of each and every congressman magtanong kung saan mapupunta ‘yan (Some are basically asking where these insertions would go and it is the duty of every Congressman to ask this question),” the lawmaker said.

“Ang nangyari dito sinasabi na P50+ billion na nakalagay na, distributed ‘yun merong mga iba-ibang items totaling about P50 billion. So there is a move to slash it dahil may question (What happens here is that the said P5o+ billion were inserted to cover different items. There is a move to slash this because there are questions),” he added.

SC ruling on PDAF

The SC ruling on PDAF, he added, only restricts congressional insertions during “various post-enactment stages of the budget execution.”

Biazon said it’s also part of their mandate as representatives to make sure each district gets its share of the national budget.

“You can request to a specific department. I believe that’s part of our duty as representatives to make sure that your district is getting its share from the national government resources. After all, my constituents pay their taxes and they’re’ entitled to get their share,” he explained.

He said, however, that such requests could be made directly to the appropriations committee or the specific department of the government—both of which could turn down their plea.

The House leadership is currently looking into the issue. /ee

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