‘Thanks, but why spare Palace, Senate pork?’
MANILA, Philippines — Progressive party-list groups on Tuesday welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s veto on House insertions in the 2019 spending law, but they remained skeptical on why he kept intact billions-worth of alleged pork insertions by senators.
Bayan Muna and ACT Teachers party-list warned that the president’s veto should not be an immediate cause for celebration.
Makabayan senatorial bet Neri Colmenares, who is Bayan Muna chair, said the President should have vetoed all pork barrel allocations, including those allotted by senators for agencies under the Office of the President.
“President Duterte should have also vetoed senatorial pork which Congressman [Rolando] Andaya has been saying and presidential pork especially intelligence funds in [various agencies],” Colmenares said.
Colmenares alleged that billions of “presidential pork” funds had allegedly been tucked away in allotments for the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and other government-owned and controlled corporations.
These agencies have been the preferred hiding places for funds sourced for graft, he said.
But while the President’s veto of pork barrel insertions amounting to P 75 billion, out of a total P95 billion, in the 2019 budget is the “correct move,” Filipinos should not be misled by the “illusion” that “pork barrel” has been taken out in the 2019 budget, according to ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio.
“The whole sordid wrangling over pork which caused the delay in the enactment of the budget has exposed how all players — members of the House, senators, the President’s own coterie, and the President himself through his bloated ‘intelligence fund’ — have made insertions for their own pet projects, which largely remain intact,” he said.
The President was apparently left with no choice but to veto the budget, Tinio said, after it was shown that the fund insertions were “blatantly unconstitutional and illegal.”
The ACT Teachers lawmaker, however, expressed concern that, because of the delayed passage of the national spending law, the government had operated under a reenacted budget for nearly half the year.
“The President now has the prerogative of treating the whole budget as his own pork barrel — a convenient advantage in the upcoming elections, when presidential realignment of funds could be used to deliver victory to his candidates,” Tinio said.
Teachers, he said, are wary over the Palace statement that the veto includes “conditional implementation” for certain teachers’ benefits and the hiring of new teachers.
“While we await full details in the President’s veto message, we assert that, together with the teachers’ unions, we have fought for the additional funding and benefits included in the (General Appropriations Act) and will demand their full implementation,” Tinio said.
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