Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon vowed Thursday to scrutinize the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget amid reports the spending outlay contains at least P35 billion in pork barrel.
“Whether it is pork or beef, we will find out when the budget is submitted to us. We will question it and exert every effort to weed out pork from the national budget,” Drilon said.
The Budget department is expected to submit the 2020 National Expenditure Program to Congress next week.
But Drilon said the minority was prepared to scrutinize the budget to make sure every item was in accordance with the Constitution and the Supreme Court ruling on the PDAF or pork barrel, and was for the best interest of the public and not lawmakers.
The pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.
Drilon said how to get rid of pork barrel was a challenge to the new leadership of the Senate, particularly the Senate Committee on Finance headed by Senator Sonny Angara.
“It’s a challenge to all of us in the Senate, particularly the committee that hears the budget each year. We are confident that Senator Angara will see to it that the budget is ‘pork-free,’” Drilon said.
The insertions of pork barrel by some lawmakers caused a three-month delay in the approval of the 2019 General Appropriations Act.
“Let us chop off pork in the budget. Anything that smells and looks like pork and bears a resemblance to the PDAF system must be taken out immediately,” Drilon said.
During his time as Senate president in the 16th Congress, it was Drilon who led the upper chamber in abolishing the PDAF system.
Drilon also urged the public to examine the budget to make sure pork barrel would not be included in the 2020 national budget.
Angara said he believed the scrutiny of the budget would be tough and thorough.
In his seven years in the Senate, Angara observed that, oftentimes, the hardest questions came from the members of the majority.
“So the review actually is not just the minority’s job but of every member regardless of political affiliation,” Angara said.
He said this interplay of skills made the Senate’s review of the budget very detailed.
“It’s like a division of labor, which results in redundancy in the vetting process,” he said.
“Is it fiscally-responsible that it will be supported by revenues and, when implemented, will not lead to wastage of taxpayers’ money through corruption or inefficiency leakage?”