Cayetano to critics: Find 'pork' in 2020 budget and House will remove it

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House of Representatives is willing to remove the alleged pork barrel in the proposed 2020 budget, as long as critics would be able to back up their allegations with evidence.  

On Monday, September 30, the Speaker directly responded to Senator Panfilo Lacson’s accusations that the House allegedly riddled the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 with illegal insertions when the lower chamber approved it last week.

"Anyone can accuse anyone of anything, 'di ba? Pero nasaan? So wala akong problema kung 'yung ebidensiya hazy. Pero 'yung zero evidence, tsismis nga 'yun. And ang problema sa tsismis, basta't nabitawan mo na, hindi mo na madaling kunin," said the Taguig City-Pateros congressman in a press conference. 

(Anyone can accuse anyone of anything, right? But where is it? So I don't have a problem if the evidence is hazy. But if there's zero evidence, that's merely gossip. And the problem with gossip is that once you've said it, it's hard to take it back.)

The Speaker then posed a challenge to the critics of the House, whom he said steered the budget discussion to focus on the supposed return of the now-unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel.

"Ngayon, mayroon namang iba, ang gustong discussion pork, pork, pork. Eh kung wala namang pork, how can we discuss that? Kung mayroong pork, ituro nila, tatanggalin namin sa budget. Sa amin, gano'n lang kasimple," said Cayetano. 

(Now, there are those who can only talk about pork, pork, pork. But since there is no pork, how can we discuss that? If there's pork, point it out to us and we'll remove it from the budget. For us, it's that simple.)

This is despite House committee on appropriations vice chairperson Joey Salceda admitting that every legislator will be getting P100 million under the 2020 budget to fund their pet projects. 

Cayetano and Salceda, however, said the amount is not pork barrel, as every allocation is specified as a line item in the 2020 budget. 

In the past days, leaders of the House and the Senate clashed after Lacson claimed "some congressmen" told him that every House deputy speaker is allegedly getting an additional P1.5-billion allocation under the 2020 budget. 

The senator made the accusations after House leaders defended the P1.6-billion increase in the lower chamber's proposed budget for its day-to-day operations. 

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez then urged Lacson to name his sources. Several lawmakers also demanded that Lacson apologize for supposedly damaging the House's reputation, but the senator refused to heed their demand. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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