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Palace: 2019 budget will be ‘pork-free’

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 12:55 PM February 08, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The P3.757 national budget for 2019 would be “pork-free,” Malacañang assured the public on Friday, as allegations of pork insertions and questionable allocations have hounded the budget.

Congress is set to pass the budget this Friday after months of delay due to issues of “insertions.”

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Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said President Rodrigo Duterte and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno would “go through each and every page of the budget.”

“We will go through and each of the item and certainly the President has the power to exercise his line item veto as he has previously done in previous budgets,” Nograles said in a Palace briefing.

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Will it be “pork-free?” Nograles briefly replied, “Yes.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier urged the President to use his “line-item veto power” over the proposed 2019 budget by removing “pork inserted by lawmakers” who are “incorrigibly insatiable” and “beyond redemption.”

“Obviously if there is anything illegal or irregular there, then the President will know what to do,” Nograles said.

He said “everything” must be “legal” in the 2019 national budget.

“Everything [should] legal here because the last we would want to do is to question it in the Supreme Court and we want this budget clean and we want this budget implemented [because] we all know and understand how important the budget is in boosting our economic growth and translating that to programs, activities and projects that will redound to the benefit of our citizens,” he said.

Once the Malacañang receives the enrolled bill, Nograles, a former Davao City Representative, said they would review it immediately so the President could sign it before it lapses into law.

“We will still review it. But certainly like any law, it will lapse into law in 30 days, so we have to do it,” he told reporters after the briefing.

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He cited the need for the budget to be passed and signed immediately, saying “government spending plays a very important and critical role as a n economic driver of growth.”

“So obviously, all of us want to immediately start the projects and programs. So yeah, we’re gonna work on it very fast,” he said.

Asked why Duterte was silent about the pork insertions in his speeches, Nograles said Duterte would wait for the final version of the passed budget before commenting.

“How will you comment if we haven’t seen the final [version]?” he said.

“It’s better if we see the final then we will scrutinize it,” he added, saying Diokno would help review the budget. “They will look into it one by one, every line, every page, every item.”

He said the Executive would be “really watchful” to avoid incidents where the budget would be questioned before the Supreme Court.

“Because the last thing we need is the budget would be stalled again because of a legal action somewhere. So we are also really watchful. We don’t want that to happen,” he said.

Nograles also vouched for the integrity of Diokno who would review the budget.

Diokno has been accused of inserting P75 billion in the 2019 budget and made questionable allocations to some agencies.

“Personally, it’s not in the character of Diokno,” he said, when asked about the assurance that Diokno would not review the budget in his favor.

“But I am sure, you know at the end of the day naman, he will make a recommendation, ultimately it will be up to the President,” he said.

He also defended the budget chief from the accusations hurled against him.

“It is easy to accuse but substantiate also the claim,” he said.

He added that it’s up to Diokno “to answer the accusations against him in the proper forum.”

He will also choose which forum, Nograles said.

“It’s up to him to decide but as long as the President retains the trust and confidence in his budget chief, then that’s the way it is. That’s the process,” he said.

“Who will scrutinize and review it if not the budget chief? he said.  /muf

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TAGS: insertion, National Budget, Nograles, Palace, Pork
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