Vetoed budget items illegal, Palace clarifies

The provisions in the 2019 national budget that were subject to a line veto by President Rodrigo Duterte were unconstitutional, the Palace said Tuesday.

In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the P95.3 billion worth of public works items were “against certain statures.”

“Those are the so-called insertions, riders, they are not part of the program by the DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways] hence [they violate] the Constitution,” Panelo told Palace reporters.

“They’re in violation of the Constitution. Whether you call it pork, beef, meat, or fish, those provisions are violative of the basic charter,” he said.

The Palace announced late Monday night that Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11260 or the General

Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019, but vetoed some P95 billion worth of public works projects.

In a separate statement, Panelo said the 2019 GAA reflects “the administration’s vision of genuine change for the Philippines, where effective and efficient delivery of programs, projects, and public services for our people will be its hallmark.”

The Palace official, however, said that President Rodrigo Duterte, who remains true to his commitment to...fealty to the constitutional directives, rejected items of appropriation that are “either considered by law and jurisprudence as rider provisions not being related to a particular appropriation or they seek to amend the Constitution and certain statutes.”

“The Chief Executive also vetoed items of appropriations under the Department of Public Works and Highways for falling outside the government’s programmed priorities which are in the total amount of P95,374,241,000,” Panelo said.

Meanwhile, President Duterte placed certain provisions in the P3.7-trillion expenditure plan under “conditional implementation” to ensure conformity with existing laws.

These items include the allowance and benefits of teachers and creation of teaching positions, construction of evacuation centers, funding for foreign-assisted projects, “revolving fund,” lump-sum appropriations for capital outlay, financial assistance to local governments, and funding requirements for the foreign service.

Also, Panelo said, he so-called last-minute insertions made by the House of Representatives during the budget deliberations were included in the President’s vetoed P95.3-billion items.

In a statement after transmitting the enrolled spending bill to the Office of the President, Senate President Vicente Sotto III had warned Duterte of the P75 billion worth of public works and projects, believing that the realignments were unconstitutionally made by the House after both chambers ratified the bicameral conference committee report.

Panelo, on the other hand, did not confirm nor deny reports that the remaining ₱20 billion in Duterte’s vetoed amount included the alleged insertions made by the Senate.

Senator Panfilo Lacson has earlier claimed Senate finance committee chair Loren Legarda might have inserted ₱23 billion to ₱25 billion for the supposed funding of projects in Antique province.

For Panelo, the President’s vetoing of certain provisions in the expenditure plan sends a clear message to government officials that Duterte does not tolerate corruption under his watch.

“The message is always, you follow the Constitution. Any deviation from the Constitution will not be approved by the President or will not be tolerated,” he said.

Three weeks after the Congress transmitted a copy of the multi-trillion-peso spending bill to the Executive department, the President signed the long-stalled GAA into law on April 16.

Malacañang has yet to release the President’s veto message, which would entail reasons why he rejected a number of provisions.

Sotto on Tuesday hit back at House appropriations committee chairman Rep. Rolando Andaya for saying that senators were in a “celebratory mood” because their pork barrel remains intact.

“We do not need to pay attention to brickbats. It’s the people’s victory. The illegal realignments cannot escape the President’s scrutiny,” Sotto said in a message to reporters.

“The President knew we were right,” said Sotto. He said the President vetoed P95.3 billion, including the P75 billion in unconstitutional realignments by the House of Representatives.

Lacson echoed the belief of Sotto that the signing of the budget is a victory for the Filipino taxpayers.

He also commended Duterte for exercising his veto power on P95 billion worth of projects that were not among the priorities of the administration. He lauded Duterte and his economic managers for coming up with a “pork-free” national budget.

“If there is one act of PRRD that is worthy of admiration, this veto message is on top of my list. With his guts, glory comes to the Filipino taxpayers,” Lacson said in a Twitter post.

“Simple math tells us this: Php 95.3B x 20 percent [pork commission] equals Php 19.06B savings from our hard earned tax money,” he added.

The senator earlier claimed that some legislators get commissions from pork barrel lodged in a legislative district of a “well-connected congressman.”

He also alleged that a 20-percent commission per project from the P75-billion “pork” was already peddled to contractors even before Congress approved the 2019 budget.

Senator JV Ejercito said the President has once again demonstrated his unflinching dedication to protect the people’s money.

“I welcome his decision to sign the budget and more importantly veto unconstitutional realignments. This is a victory not for the Senate but for fiscal responsibility and public welfare,” he said.

Senator Grace Poe also thanked the President for signing the new budget and for exercising his veto power on provisions that are questionable.

She said the budget should ensure that the economy will work for everybody, especially the poor, who most need basic services.

“Our task does not end here. Equally important is to see to it that the money is spent where it was allocated, and is felt by the people,” she added.

Senator Cynthia Villar said the budget’s passage will mean more employment opportunities and a positive economic outlook.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs, said he felt relieved that the 2019 budget has finally been signed primarily because further delay would have caused adverse effects on the economy.

Andaya earlier took senators to task for celebrating the retention of their pork.

“My friends in the Senate are going to town claiming victory over the deletion of the House amendments. Does this mean that the Senate pork remains intact? Could this be the reason for their celebratory mood?” Andaya asked.

“It’s not Good Friday at the Senate, it’s Christmas,” he added. “It behooves the Senate to tell the people how much in their insertions were carried in the national budget. And how big is the bacon each senator is bringing home.”

House Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said the House welcomed the passage of the budget.

“We respect his decision to veto some items in the budget. We will abide with the President’s decision and respect the thorough study made by his team after all factors were considered,” Castro said.

With the signing, Castro pointed out, “we can all buckle down to work and start implementing the President’s priority projects for the Filipino people.”

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, vice chairman of the House appropriations committee, said the President’s action was “a clear rebuke of the unconstitutional abomination committed by certain shameless lawmakers to insert pork barrel funds in this year’s appropriations law.”

Villafuerte said this presidential veto of line items consisting of various public works projects is in keeping with the Supreme Court ruling declaring pork barrel funds unconstitutional.

But Andaya and Castro said the House under the Arroyo leadership got rid of the lump sum appropriations by identifying the particular projects proposed by legislators who were identified in the budget bill.

Lump sum appropriations were earlier declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Andaya said Sotto should work for transparency by itemizing the alleged lump sum or pork barrel funds of the senators.

“On the part of the House, we have been transparent as to the authorship of the amendments. The Senate has been silent about theirs.

It’s time to break their Omerta,” Andaya said, referring to the mafia code of silence.

Earlier, Andaya said P83 billion in budget cuts made by the Senate would hurt the President’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.

READ: Senate backs Duterte’s threat to veto budget

READ: Line veto best option on budget, Lacson says

READ: DoF backs veto of P95-b projects

Topics: 2019 national budget , Rodrigo Duterte , Salvador Panelo , Department of Public Works and Highways
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