Budget rift proves House indiscretions – Lacson
The disputes among allies of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the House of Representatives over P90 billion in pork proved their “indiscretions” in arbitrarily realigning portions of the P3.8-trillion national budget after it had been ratified by Congress, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Monday.
Lacson said the quarrels could be a blessing in disguise as it provided President Rodrigo Duterte clues about entries in the final version of the 2019 budget that he should veto.
The senator had earlier accused Arroyo and other House leaders of unlawfully transferring the approved allotments for certain areas to favored legislative districts without the consent of the Senate.
“The infighting brought about by the ‘spoils for the victors’ actually exposed the indiscretions of the House leadership in whimsically realigning pork insertions,” Lacson told the Inquirer in a text message.
He said the battle for pork not only made the situation worse for House leaders, it actually “became uglier.”
“On a positive note, this is good for us and the Filipino taxpayers since it could make it easier for Malacañang to discern when the President exercises his line-item veto authority,” he added.
Favored 80 districts
Last week, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. accused his political rival, fellow Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., of illegally diverting more than P90 billion in approved allocations for health and infrastructure projects for over 80 districts to some “favored lawmakers.”
In defending Andaya, Majority Leader Fredenil Castro said that Villafuerte was just sour-graping after the House leadership decided to reduce the P2.7 billion in public works funds previously earmarked for his district.
The long delay in the transmittal of the national budget for 2019 to Malacañang finally ended last week after Senate President Vicente Sotto III signed “with strong reservations” the conference committee report.
Sotto urged the President to reject P75 billion in postratification realignments made by the House leaders.
Malacañang on Monday said the “intramurals” between the Senate and the House were “not necessarily” irrelevant since the President would take into account the issues raised by both chambers.
“[T]hat would be factored in the considerations of the President [in] signing or vetoing the certain provisions of the budget,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
But Andaya, chair of the House appropriations committee, on Monday said the Senate may have sabotaged the President’s massive infrastructure program by cutting allocations for priority projects in the budget.
He urged the President to veto budgetary cuts and realignments made by the senators.
“It is the Senate that may find itself liable to accusation of sabotage when it decided, unilaterally, to cut the allocation for the President’s ‘Build, Build, Build Program’ and other priority projects,” Andaya said.
“We are confident that the Office of the President would consider these items in their review and find ways on how to restore them in the President’s veto message,” he added. —WITH REPORTS FROM DJ YAP AND JULIE M. AURELIO
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