Lacson owns up to most budget cuts
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson owned up to most of the cuts in the 2019 national budget, still because of “pork.”
“While I was the main proponent of most of the cuts which I did only upon the requests or concurrence of the agencies, I was aware of the presence of ‘pork,’ thus my dissenting vote on its ratification,” Lacson said in a Twitter post Monday.
The senator was reacting to Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya’s latest allegation that the Senate might be “liable to the accusation of sabotage” when it “unilaterally” cut down the allocation for the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program and other priority projects.
Andaya then enumerated the budget cuts by the Senate which amounted to about P83.7 billion.
Lacson, however, defended the budget cuts that he introduced, including the P75 billion “insertion” in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) budget.
Lacson also mentioned the P20-billion cut in the right-of way funding under the DPWH and another P16 billion from the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) financial assistance to local government units.
The DPWH and DILG both admitted that they were not aware of the said allocations, the senator noted.
Lacson clarified though that his budget cuts were not all considered “pork.”
“Other realignments were used to augment the much depleted HFEP (Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP); the activation of the PA 11th Infantry Division upon the direction of the President; adjustments or the purchase of medicines by the Veterans Memorial Medical Center due to the increase in the price index of medicines, and other institutional amendments, and therefore should not be regarded as pork,” he pointed out.
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto, meanwhile, brushed aside Andaya’s latest allegation against the Senate.
“It’s a last ditch effort to obfuscate the issue and try to prevent the President’s veto of their illegal realignments,” Sotto said in a statement.
“Even their colleagues know. No excuses necessary because the President knows everything,” he said.
Despite strong reservations, Sotto signed the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) last March 26, which was later transmitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for signature.
“I affixed my signature with strong reservations. My attestation is limited only to those approved by the Bicameral Conference Committee and ratified by both Houses of Congress,” the Senate leader.
Sotto insisted that the P75 billion worth of programs or projects under the Local Infrastructure Program of the DPWH funded through “internal realignments” in the budget were unconstitutional. /ee
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