Explain P190-B budget insertions, senators urged | Inquirer News

Explain P190-B budget insertions, senators urged

Senators have to explain the P190 billion that they inserted in the proposed 2019 budget in order to break the impasse that has snagged deliberations on the spending bill, House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro said on Saturday.

“We do not wish to cast ill motives on our senators, but it is sad to note that until now, they have failed to explain what they intend to do with the P190 billion,” he said at a press forum.

‘Contentious issues’


Castro lamented that some senators had threatened to support the reenactment of the 2018 budget due to the failure of the House and the Senate contingents in the conference committee to settle “contentious issues.”


Echoing Malacañang’s fears that a reenacted budget would hurt the economy, Castro said House members were puzzled about the senators’ refusal to give details of funding insertions in the proposed budget law.

“It would seem that senators would rather let the country suffer than to explain their ‘institutional amendments,’” he said, using Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s term for the personal insertions amounting to P50 billion that the senator had introduced.

Prior consultations

“This is the first time I have heard of such a term. I guess this was coined to suit the situation,” Castro said.

In a radio interview on Saturday, Lacson said the senators’ individual amendments were fine as long as there were prior consultations with the implementing agency so that these would not be considered arbitrary.

He was referring to the P23 billion total individual amendments made by fellow senators in the Senate’s version of the budget bill.


Without consultation, the agency involved might not be able to implement the project properly, he said.

“The request should come from the agency or, if it is the initiative of the congressman or the senator, they should cooperate with the agency to tell them they would include a certain amount in the budget and ask if they could implement the project. Or they could check if there is any duplication,” Lacson said.

If this is the process, then there will be no problem, he said.

“What is bad is if there is no consultation. That is when I say the amendment has become whimsical or arbitrary,” Lacson added.

Regarding the P190 billion, Lacson said he released the list of his own “institutional amendments” last week.

‘Must be a duck’

But Castro said that regardless of the terms used, House members believed that the “postenactment” insertions with lump-sum amounts, was the same as pork, which the Supreme Court had outlawed.

“If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck,” he said.

According to Castro, with their P190-billion insertion, each senator will get more than P7 billion.

Lacson urged other lawmakers to release their list of amendments as he had already done.

In a Twitter post on Saturday, Lacson specifically asked Coop Natcco Rep. Anthony Bravo to disclose his own budget amendments.

Bravo had called him a hypocrite for saying that each House member got P160 million in pork.

Recto’s amendments

“Mr. Congressman, I already made public all my amendments in the 2019 national budget. Can you do the same?” Lacson said.

Castro defended the P160-million allotments, saying these could not be considered pork because they were for projects requested by their constituents and detailed in the proposed General Appropriations Act.

Also on Saturday, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said he has made around P70 billion worth of institutional and individual amendments in the budget.

He said he had “vetted projects” in Pampanga and his home province of Batangas, which has contributed large amounts in taxes and expected government projects in return.

Not lump sums

What is important is the allocations are not just lump sums but are for clearly identified projects that have undergone consultations with their intended beneficiaries, he said.

Sen. JV Ejercito said some local officials sought funds from senators for certain projects. These were eventually included as line items, not lump sums, which would lead to postenactment intervention from lawmakers, a practice disallowed by the high tribunal when it struck down the pork barrel system.

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What’s important is that lawmakers are not the ones who decide which contractors would implement the projects, he added.


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