Bravo hits Lacson for holding 2019 budget ‘hostage’
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson is “holding hostage” the proposed 2019 national budget because of “personal vendetta” against Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Deputy Minority Leader and Coop-Natco party-list Rep. Anthony Bravo claimed on Monday.
“Sen. Panfilo Lacson is holding the budget hostage because of personal vendetta to our Speaker GMA. He has not said anything good about the Speaker from the very start of her leadership as the speaker and in fact even before the change of leadership in the House…” Bravo told reporters in a press conference.
“This is not about any congressman or any senator. This is about my advocacy, my crusade against the pork barrel system and this is about the national budget,” he added.
Bravo likewise belied Lacson’s claim that Arroyo unlawfully funneled nearly P95 billion in infrastructure funds to the districts of her House allies after Congress had ratified the final version of the P3.8-trillion budget this year.
Bravo also maintained that the Lower House did not do anything illegal when it itemized the lump sum portions in this year’s expenditure plan, arguing that Lacson merely did not want Arroyo and her leadership to succeed.
“He don’t [sic] want the Speaker to be successful and the leadership of Speaker,” the party-list lawmaker said.
Bravo also argued that President Rodrigo Duterte may opt to veto portions of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) should he find anything questionable.
He warned that the budget stand-off could further stall the Duterte administration’s massive “Build, build, build” infrastructure program.
After almost two months of delay, Congress ratified the 2019 spending bill last Feb. 8 before it went on an election break.
The legislative branch is supposed to transmit the GAB to the President at this point, but apparent “itemizations” of lump sum portions caused further delays in the budget process.
The itemization process, which began after the bicameral conference committee approved the expenditure plan was done equitably, according to Bravo.
“Ang sinasabi bakit ang iba konti, ‘yung iba malaki, parang may napaboran. Sa akin ho ang tingin ko, ‘yung mga nakaraan ho kasing Kongreso may mga ibang district na kulang ho ‘yung allocation, may mga na-zero nga eh. So under the principle of equitability inapply po siguro ngayon,” the lawmaker explained.
(“Some are asking why other districts got bigger allocations, were they favored? For me, it was done because some districts got insufficient to zero funds in previous Congresses. The principle of equitability was probably applied now.)
“But take note, merong mga project na ipinasok din ho din ang Senate (the Senate also itemized certain projects)… Kaya makikita mo may mga lumolobo dyan na district (That’s why there would be districts with bigger funds), but some of those projects came from the proposal coming from the senators,” he added.
Bravo also pointed out that he was just defending the budget, and not Arroyo.
“We don’t want to be a destructive minority,” he said, adding that the House has already printed and transmitted the GAB to the Senate. / gsg
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