House committee on appropriations chairman Rolando Andaya Jr
. said Sunday that the P75 billion inserted into the 2019 national budget by the Department of Budget and Management
(DBM) would be divided among senators and congressmen as a discretionary fund.
In an interview on Radio dzBB, Andaya said each congressman would receive P160 million to fund projects and programs for his or her district.
“That’s true because we agreed that nobody would get a zero allocation,” Andaya said in Filipino.
He also confirmed that the funds would be taken from the P75 billion insertion by the DBM.
Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson warned that under the budget deal, there were discretionary funds or pork of P48 billion for the congressmen and P23 billion for the senators.
In a privilege speech Friday, Lacson said the pork insertions were the result of “connivance of the DBM and the old leadership of the House of Representatives.”
He urged the President to veto any line item in the budget that “looked and smelled like pork.”
Andaya said he would challenge before the Supreme Court any move by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno or Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles to restore the P75 billion in insertions in the 2019 budget.
“In case the two Cabinet members succeed in this evil scheme of vetoing the 2019 General Appropriations Bill to restore the P75-billion insertion, I will join Senators Lacson and [Franklin] Drilon in questioning the veto message before the Supreme Court,” he said.
“It is Congress’ job to scrutinize the National Expenditure Program as part of its budget authorization function. Now that Congress has fulfilled its job in correcting the P75 billion gaffe, Secretary Diokno, and Secretary Nograles are back at the drawing board to restore it in the 2019 General Appropriations Act via a veto message. This is clear mockery of the power of Congress to scrutinize the budget,” he said.
He challenged Diokno to stop dropping the name of President Rodrigo Duterte in saying the 2019 national budget was the Chief Executive’s national expenditure program when the President had nothing to do with the P75 billion insertion.
“I do not know where Secretary Diokno is getting the gall to call the 2019 NEP with Department of Budget and Management’s P75 billion insertion as the President’s budget. The President is not part of the conspiracy between the DBM and the previous House leadership. It will be a great disservice and disloyalty for a few Cabinet members to drag the President into this mess,” Andaya said.
He also supported Lacson’s view that the P75 billion insertion was “a conspiracy between the DBM and the previous House leadership.”
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“My unsolicited advice to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the new spokesperson of DBM Secretary Ben Diokno [is] be careful with the crafting of the veto message for it will just lead back to where it all started. The public never forgets that you were part of the previous House leadership as chairman of the appropriations committee,” he said.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, said “bullying” by the House panel during the bicameral conference committee resulted in the retention of “unconscionable” or “unreasonable” amounts of pork in the national budget.
In an interview with Radio dzBB, Hontiveros said she wanted to uphold the Supreme Court ruling that declared pork barrel unconstitutional by inserting additional budget for health and other social services instead of putting up discretionary funds.
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“We tried that in Senate version. So we allocated additional budget for health and social services. But what happened last week, we saw the bullying of the House of Representatives,” she said.
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Hontiveros was among those who objected to the “pork insertions” in the 2019 General Appropriations Act which was ratified Friday. It is currently awaiting signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.
But Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said that teaching personnel in state universities and colleges across the country will be able to receive this year part of their long-overdue salary adjustments with the approval of budget that included funding for job promotion.
“The wait is over,” said Angara, vice chairman of the Senate committee on finance and head of the sub-committee that tackled the spending package of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and SUCs, after both chambers of Congress approved the P3.757-trillion budget for this year.
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