2020 budget ‘pork-less,’ House leaders assure
MANILA, Philippines – House leaders attested on Sunday that zero congressional insertions were permitted in the P4.1-trillion budget proposal for 2020 that is poised to undergo plenary consideration this week, purportedly keeping it “pork-less” despite appeals by several lawmakers.
Rep. Isidro Ungab, House appropriations panel chair, said that the House leadership found it difficult to accommodate the requests of dozens of lawmakers to realign between P70 and P90 billion in public works funds to their districts.
“We gather and take note of their requests in the meantime that there is no clear source of funds to address their concerns. We are going through proper procedures before any proposed amendment or augmentation can be entertained,” he told the Inquirer.
“Frankly, it’s hard to identify possible fund sources because the 2020 budget is cash-based and expenditures already itemized,” Ungab said.
Majority Leader Martin Romualdez confirmed in a statement that the 2020 budget proposal under House Bill No. 4228, was refiled “without insertions.”
“It was the same and original GAB (General Appropriations Bill) based on the NEP (national expenditure program) that was sent again to the appropriations panel,” he said.
The GAB refers to the spending bill filed by lawmakers based on the NEP, or the President’s budget, which is submitted every year by the executive to Congress for its scrutiny and approval.
The GAB becomes the General Appropriations Act—or the national budget—once passed into law.
Romualdez assured the public that the 2020 budget would be stripped of discretionary lump sums—which had become a source of kickbacks—except for certain appropriations such as calamity and contingency funds.
‘A thing of the past’
“Definitely, the pork barrel system is a thing of the past. Line-item budgeting system will be strictly observed to ensure transparency and accountability in the disbursement of public funds,” he said.
Ungab earlier revealed that about 68 lawmakers wanted to make insertions to the bill amounting to P70 billion to P90 billion worth of public works projects which had either been slashed during preparation or vetoed from the current P3.6-trillion budget.
On Aug. 28, the GAB was withdrawn from Ungab’s panel on a motion by Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. who argued that the House bill could deviate from the NEP since it was “the job of the House to allocate or amend budgetary items.”
But Ungab protested the move, insisting that the GAB should be a faithful copy of the NEP, and any changes could only be made during the period of amendments once the bill was put on second reading in plenary session.
After a meeting with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and other leaders, the dispute was resolved, and the GAB was refiled, untouched, last Wednesday, according to Romualdez.
Ungab will sponsor and begin his defense of the budget measure on the plenary floor on Tuesday.
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