Zarate says whole Makabayan bloc didn’t avail P100 million allocation
MANILA, Philippines – The whole Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives did not avail of the P100 million allocation per lawmaker in the proposed 2020 national budget, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate clarified on Wednesday night.
Zarate also insisted that even with claims that the allocations are not pork and does not contradict the Supreme Court’s decision, it still creates a conflict of interest in how lawmakers should scrutinize the budget prepared by the executive branch.
“Bayan Muna and Makabayan bloc representatives did not avail or partake of any so-called P100 million allocation per House member for itemized projects to be included in the 2020 national budget,” he said in a message to reporters.
“Even if it is argued that it is not contrary to the 2013 Supreme Court decision outlawing lump sum allocation and post enactment intervention of congress members, this 2020 congressional entitlement is still part of the pervasive patronage system that unfortunately marks our budget process,” he added.
According to Zarate, these allotments hinder Congress from being fully independent from the influence of the current administration.
“This is the same patronage and corruptive system used by the executive department, then and now, to keep Congress under its strong influence and pliant to its wishes,” he explained.
“To combat corruption and for Congress to be truly independent, the pork barrel system should be abolished. Hiding behind semantics and technical definitions would not do,” he said.
Earlier, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said that lawmakers will receive a P70 million allocation for construction projects, and P30 million for soft projects. He insisted that it is not pork, because it is already part of the inline budgeting.
Under inline budgeting, House members propose projects, which will be considered by agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in crafting the National Expenditure Program (NEP).
Minority Floor Leader and Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., along with Marikina 1st District Rep. Bayani Fernando have echoed Salceda’s statements, saying that there is no pork in the current budget because all Congress can do is cut and slash.
Zarate and the rest of the Makabayan bloc, namely Bayan Muna Reps. Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago are part of the Minority.
Issues of pork-laden budgets are not new, even as the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the pork barrel system is unconstitutional. Just in 2018, the deliberations of the 2019 budget was stalled over allegations of last minute insertions in the then-proposed General Appropriations Act.
“We must get rid of the pork barrel system and have a national budget that genuinely and directly goes to the basic services that is needed by our constituents, as well as projects that truly usher us to national industrialization and development,” Zarate added. /muf
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