House ratifies P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives ratified on Wednesday afternoon the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020, even as it is still hounded by allegations of pork barrel and insertions.
The chamber dominated by pro-administration lawmakers swiftly gave its nod to next year’s General Appropriations Bill (GAB) few hours after it was adopted by the bicameral conference committee which was tasked to reconcile versions of the Senate and the House. The voting on House Bill No. 4228 was via viva voce or a vote of ayes and nays.
A copy of the committee report and a detailed account of the amendments made by the body have yet to be released by Congress, but Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier revealed last-minute “corruption-driven” insertions made by the lower chamber.
“Pork is here to stay. I hope the President will again exercise his political will in vetoing line items that will obviously waste people’s tax money,” Lacson said in a statement as he snubbed the bicam meeting.
Senate finance chair Sonny Angara and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez have dismissed Lacson’s claims. Angara said the insertions or amendments of the House and Senate could not be considered pork barrel or post-enactment discretionary funds, which the Supreme Court had already struck down as illegal in 2013.
Romualdez said the new version of the GAB remains in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s vision of a “safe and comfortable life for Filipinos,” as well as the administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” massive infrastructure drive.
In a statement, Speaker Alan Cayetano claimed the budget that they passed has no pork and parked funds.
But the six members of the Makabayan opposition bloc rejected and assailed the ratification.
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite lamented the limited time given to scrutinize the committee report of the Senate-House panel which was adopted early Wednesday. Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas also believed the budget remains riddled with pork-barrel and insertions.
ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro meanwhile pointed out that the budget rejects national industrialization, genuine agrarian reform, and sufficient support for basic social services.
Both Houses of Congress should ratify the expenditure plan before it could be sent to Duterte who has until December 31 to sign it to prevent a reenacted budget before the new fiscal year starts. House appropriation chair and Davao 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab said they plan to forward the final spending bill to the President by December 21.