There is no room for unconstitutional provisions in the proposed PHP4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, Malacañang said.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this assurance following concerns raised by Senator Panfilo Lacson that members of the House of Representatives allegedly made last-minute insertions prior to the signing of the budget by the bicameral conference committee.
“Provisions in the budget that run counter to the Constitution will be vetoed by the President, there is no change in that policy,” Panelo said in a statement.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, like Panelo, earlier said the President won’t hesitate to use his veto powers as he did when he vetoed the 2019 national budget.
In a statement on Wednesday, Lacson claimed that “there are still lump sums and vaguely described projects that are now part of the bicam report”.
He noted that his office received from the House through the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) one USB drive containing two files, the “Source” File and the “List” File.
The last-minute insertions made by the House would indicate that the Source File is the list of 1,253 budget items worth PHP83.219 billion that was apparently used as the congressmen’s ‘source’ of their ‘list’ of 742 projects worth PHP16.345 billion that were inserted in the bicam report that was signed by both panels, he said.
Moreover, Lacson said he could not determine if indeed only PHP16.345 billion or the bigger amount of PHP83.219 billion was inserted at the last minute prior to the bicam signing since there is no preliminary explanation from the House regarding the two files.
Lacson, meanwhile, expressed hope the President will again veto line items “that will obviously waste people’s tax money”.
“It is revolting to note that legislators keep on dipping their dirty fingers on our national budget in spite of pending cases involving the same issue,” Lacson said.
Despite Lacson’s claims of pork insertions, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said project allocations could not be considered as pork barrel funds as long as they are itemized.
“Taon taon naman nag-iinsertion talaga ang House members kasi sa tingin nila ‘yun ang pangangailangan ng kanilang distrito (Every year, House members make insertions because they think it is the need of their districts),” Angara said.
Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, is expecting to send the printed copy of the ratified budget to Duterte in five to seven days.
To prevent a reenacted budget, the President has until December 31 to sign the budget.
The House approved House Bill No. 4228, or the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2020, on Sept. 20, while the Senate passed its version on Nov. 27.
Duterte earlier said he wanted to avoid a repeat of the nearly four-month delay in 2019 budget enactment due to an impasse between the House and Senate on realignments made by some House members.
In his veto message on the 2019 budget, Duterte said he would “not tolerate any attempts to circumvent the Constitution”, and vetoed PHP95.3 billion items of appropriations under the budget because they were “not within programmed priorities”. (PNA)