P3B for CHEd program realigned for free tuition
It’s a veritable “lechon” (roast pig) in a pork-filled budget.
At the prodding of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the Senate on Wednesday agreed to realign the P3-billion budget of the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHEd) scholarship program to the free college education program after concluding it was pork.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, concurred with proposals on the plenary floor to just place the P3-billion “Tulong Dunong” (Help Learning) program under the proposed P43.3-billion allocation for CHEd’s free tuition program.
This developed after a protracted back-and-forth with Lacson who insisted during plenary debates that Tulong Dunong was a big pork barrel.
Lacson said lawmakers were effectively “implementing” the program by facilitating the award of scholarships for their own constituents, instead of letting the executive do its job.
“As a matter of fact, some legislators are even distributing the checks themselves,” he said, repeating the point that the Supreme Court had already discontinued the practice of discretionary lump-sum funds for lawmakers.
“I don’t know that. I’ve never done that in my three terms,” replied Legarda.
At this point, Lacson, known for his antipork advocacy, confronted the finance chair: “So, I go back to my previous question, is that pork?”
Legarda quipped: “I think it’s lechon.”
“So if it looks like pork, smells like pork, it must be pork,” Lacson said.
But Legarda said it was not wrong for senators and representatives to make amendments to the budget of projects like Tunong-Dunong, which she insisted was of great benefit to students.
“We are not on the same page,” Lacson said. “Legislators have no business implementing projects. That’s the exclusive jurisdiction of the executive branch.
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