2019 budget extended until end of 2020
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading a joint resolution extending the life of the 2019 budget by one more year, even as lawmakers censured Sen. Panfilo Lacson for claiming they had planned to insert pork allocations into the proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget.
The joint resolution sought to prolong the availability of the current P3.7-trillion budget for capital outlays, maintenance and other operating expenses until Dec. 31, 2020.
The proponents said they wished to avoid a scenario in which unreleased appropriations automatically revert to the national treasury as surplus or savings once the validity of the budget lapses by yearend.
In the first half of 2019, only 41.5 percent of the total allotment of the national government agencies had been obligated, and only 60.4 percent of this had been disbursed, according to Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, author of the first resolution.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the ways and means committee, cited three factors that necessitated the extension: the delayed approval of the 2019 budget, the onset of the election ban on spending for the May elections, and restrictions imposed by cash-based budgeting.
The House approved the budget measure on final reading on Friday, but gave itself a window of time to accept individual and institutional amendments by the members.
Responding to Lacson’s allegations, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab insisted that all House amendments to the 2020 budget measure were devoid of “pork” for any individual legislator.
Lacson earlier claimed that House leaders had dangled P1.5 billion in additional funding for each of the 22 deputy speakers, and P700 million for each representative.
He later clarified that based on his information from several unnamed House members, the plan was eventually dropped.
Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. also lashed back at Lacson for suggesting that he was behind the aborted attempt at pork insertions.
“We never thought of, discussed, planned and even attempted to add a single peso to a district or for a congressman, what more P33 billion for [deputy speakers], and more unbelievable, P700 million for each of the 300 congressmen, which would total P210 billion, not P54 billion as reported,” Villafuerte said.
Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro delivered a privilege speech demanding that Lacson apologizes for his allegations.
Lacson rejected Castro’s demand, saying, “His whining and howling will not deter my vigilance in performing my mandate of scrutinizing the budget measure.” —With reports from Marlon Ramos and Melvin Gascon
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