Bravo defends House from Lacson’s ‘pork’ allegations
MANILA, Philippines — COOP NATCCO Rep. Anthony Bravo on Friday defended the House of Representatives from Senator Panfilo Lacson’s allegations that the chamber inserted hundreds of millions of pesos in “pork” allocations in the proposed P3.8-trillion 2019 national budget.
“Kung sa House galing ang amendment, ano ang tawag ng publiko including the Senate? Pork po ‘yan. Pag galing po sa Senate ano’ng tawag nila? Institutional amendment ho ‘yan,” Bravo lamented during a press conference.
The party-list representative criticized the “sudden turnaround” of Lacson when he accused that House members were getting P160 million worth of projects in the spending bill days after the senator said he acknowledged and understand the needs of the congressmen.
“The senator kept on saying that their amendments were institutional and not individual amendments. If that is so, why are they so afraid of itemizing their amendments? Dahil ba makikita ng publiko ‘yung mga isinali nila o isinaksak nila na billion peso?” Bravo asked.
The two are both members of the Senate-House conference tasked to finalize this year’s expenditure plan.
“Our position was clear. Every amendment to the 2019 budget must be known to the public and approved by the senators and congressmen. No media coverage, in our position, no bicam,” Bravo said.
“Senator Lacson did not attend the first bicam… Maybe he was busy. Nagpakita lang po siya sa susunod na session nang malaman na may media coverage,” he added.
Lacson, in an interview on Wednesday at the bicam, said it would be impossible to itemize the Senate’s amendment’s line-by-line.
“Do not ask for the impossible. ‘Pag hingan kami ng imposible paano namin maibibigay? Abutin tayo maski tatlong pasko ‘di kaya ibigay ang hinihingi na line by line items ng institutional amendments,” he said.
Bravo did not categorically deny the P160 million per congressman allegation but said amendments introduced by the House were not “pork barrel.”
“Alam nyo ho, marami hong requests ang ating mga constituents…” he said, explaining that not all projects proposed by local development councils are prioritized and funded hence, the requests of mayors and local government through district representatives.
“I can’t define it as pork because it’s already line item. ‘Yung pork po natin nung nakaraan lumpsum,” he added, referring to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that the Supreme Court had declared as unconstitutional in 2013.
PDAF is a type of pork barrel or lump sum appropriations during post-enactment of the budget that is usually used to fund lawmakers’ pet projects.
Bravo reiterated the House leadership’s stand against a reenacted budget for 2019 because this would affect the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.
“We do not want a reenacted budget. We want a new budget passed before our legislative break,” he said.
The country has been operating under a reenacted budget since January, which means that the government is basing its expenditure on the 2018 financial plan, as Congress has yet to approve the proposed 2019 national budget.
Last Wednesday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he would ask Senator Loren Legarda to withdraw the Senate’s version of the General Appropriations Bill and continue operating under the reenacted 2018 budget amid pork barrel allegations.
But the Senate-House conference on 2019 budget still met that night and continued to deliberate on the budget. Legarda and House appropriations panel chair Rolando Andaya Jr. are expected to itemize each chamber’s amendments to the 2019 expenditure plan and subsequently release a report. /kga
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