Lacson: Bicam not open to public due to realignment of funds
The House of Representatives wants to keep the public in the dark about bicameral meetings on the P4.1-trillion 2020 budget because congressmen want to realign up to P100 billion to unspecified projects, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said on Friday.
Lacson surmised that this may be the reason Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano wants to close the joint budget deliberations of the House and Senate from the public.
“That’s what I was telling you during our earlier discussion about the budget, remember? There’s still the bicameral [committee] to worry about,” Lacson said in a text message.
“As things are turning out now, I was correct after all. P100 billion to be realigned in the bicameral [committee] is such a huge amount that could distort the entire budget to the detriment of the priority projects of the government,” he argued.
“Was there planning involved in the realignment of such humongous amount? Were there even consultations made with the agencies to be affected by such realignments?” Lacson asked.
In September, Lacson exposed a House move to allot P700 million to each congressman and P1.5 billion to each House’s 22 deputy speakers.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda admitted then that the allocation was reduced to P100 million per congressman and the total amounted to “only” P30 billion.
Lacson saw no problem in the P9.5 billion that were realigned in “institutional amendments” for superseding events.
P20B in ‘parked funds’
But Lacson claimed the 2020 budget still had some P20 billion in “parked funds” for unspecified projects that are deemed to be pork under a 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court.
Lacson disputed Cayetano’s claim that opening the congressional budget hearings to the public would only turn the proceedings into “a circus” since Congress usually opened hearings in the past.
“I don’t understand, for the life of me, how it could turn into a circus. On the [contrary], the bicameral conferees will behave better if the proceedings are made open to the public,” he insisted.
“Probably that is the reason why the House leadership is resisting transparency in the conduct of the bicameral [conference],” Lacson said.
But Cayetano said that the planned realignment of P100 billion was only for funding requirements of the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education and other agencies.
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