Lacson urges Duterte to veto questionable P16B in bicam-approved 2020 budget
MANILA, Philippines – Anti-pork crusader Senator Panfilo Lacson urged President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, December 12, to exercise his line-item veto power over the questionable multibillion "insertions" in the proposed 2020 national budget.
The 18th Congress ratified the panel report on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget on Wednesday, December 11, which was approved by the bicameral conference committee on the same day, even as Lacson claimed that House lawmakers had P16.35-billion worth of "last-minute insertions."
In a phone interview with reporters on Thursday, Lacson said he had discussed with Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, head of the Senate finance panel, to write down all the items they deemed questionable beyond the P16.35-billion worth of projects, and send that list to the President.
"Tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang pag-scrutinize kasi hangga't di pa enrolled ang bill, may pagasa pang ma-veto yan. (We continue witto scrutinize it because as long as the bill hasn't been enrolled for the President's signature, there's still a chance for it to be vetoed)," Lacson said.
"Ang sa akin lang, maghinayang tayo sa pera. Lagi kami nagdedebate sa pagtaas ng buwis at umuutang pa tayo. Ang utang natin P7.9 trillion na tapos makakakita ka ng ganito, 'di ba tayo nanghinayang sa pera ng bayan? Pera natin ito eh. 'Di nila pera yan," he added.
(For me, we need to feel sorry for our money. We always debate about increasing taxes and we even borrow money. Our loans now reach P7.9 trillion and then we see this? Don't we regret misspending taxpayers' money? This our money. It's not only theirs.)
Lacson said he had raised the "huge disconnect" between the needs and priorities of the local government against the national budget to Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado.
For example, he said 117 flood control projects "dominate" the insertions worth P3.17 billion, of which 8 are "uniformly budgeted" at P60 million each.
Even if there are questionable items, Lacson said he agreed for the bicam report to be signed, fearing there would be another stalemate that may lead to a reenacted budget.
For the first few months of 2019, the Philippine government operated on a reenacted budget because of the budget deadlock over questionable infrastructure projects that were added post-bicam. Because of this, the Senate had transmitted the budget bill with "strong reservations" to Malacañang.
When the President signed the budget in April, he had vetoed P95-billion worth of infrastructure projects in the 2019 budget.
This time, Lacson is again hopeful the Office of the President will scrutinize the would-be enrolled spending bill based on the chamber's recommendations.
"Bahala ang Pangulo mag-discern o mag-analyze pa kung tama ang aming sinasabi o hindi. (It's up to the President to discern or analyze if he believes what we're saying is right or not)," Lacson said. – Rappler.com