Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said that the P100 million that each lawmaker at the House of Representatives will be receiving PHP100 million under the proposed PHP4.1 trillion national budget for 2020 is not “pork barrel.”
Salceda said that these were not classified as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel, which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional in 2013.
In the previous administration, PDAF erupted into a full-blown scandal involving senators and congressmen alleged to have received huge kickbacks from PDAF-funded projects implemented by scam queen Janet Lim.
Each lawmaker at the House of Representatives will be receiving PHP100 million under the proposed PHP4.1 trillion national budget for 2020, Salceda said Wednesday.
Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, bared that of the amount, PHP70 million will be allocated for hard projects, such as infrastructure, while PHP30 million will be used for soft projects, such as medical assistance.
Asked if there were any allocations for congressmen, Salceda said: “Of course there are allocations for my constituents.”
“To ensure everybody has some minimum, PHP100 (million), yes. But that’s basically PHP70 million of infrastructure and they were itemized in the NEP (National Expenditure Program) and there is no such thing as non-itemized expenditure there,” Salceda said during the weekly economic media briefing in Malacañang.
Salceda said the PHP100 million was determined by the executive branch.
He also assured that the proposed 2020 national budget would be pork-free.
“It’s free of pork based on Supreme Court standards. And the mere fact that there are new insertions… as is, where is,” Salceda later said in a media interview.
He said it is free from pork because there are no individual amendments or alignments made to the proposed budget unlike previous years.
“There are no individual amendments, there are only three institutional amendments,” Salceda said, namely amendments to develop the education, health sectors, Camp Aguinaldo and other sectors.
“It also smells, acts, quacks like a need of my constituents and it also smells, acts, quacks as if it’s allowed by the Supreme Court,” he added.
The House of Representatives is composed of 299 districts and party-list representatives.
Duterte allies working
Salceda, meanwhile, bared that the House will approve the proposed 2020 national budget on second reading on Friday (Sept. 20) and approve it on third and final reading by next week.
“So the 2020 budget, I’m sure will be approved by September 20. The earliest approved budget at the House in history,” Salceda said.
“We will approve on second reading on Friday. Parehas lang, wala nang magbabago (It’s the same, nothing changes) after second reading. Yung third reading nominal voting na yun (On the third reading, we’ll do nominal voting),” he added.
Salceda expressed hope that the Senate would also follow the House’s footsteps by passing the proposed budget as early as possible, to prove that the allies of President Rodrigo Duterte are working.
“We just wanna prove that the ‘Duterte Super Coalition’ in the House is working, and I hope the so-called ‘Duterte Super Coalition of 20’ in the Senate will do the same,” he added.
In a separate media interview, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo assured that the President will veto the proposed budget should there be provisions he finds “unconstitutional.”
“Antayin natin pag sinubmit na kay Presidente (Let’s wait for it to be submitted to the President) then the President will decide if it is pork or not. He will veto it if it is against the Constitution,” Panelo said. (PNA)
House Committee on Appropriations chairman Davao City Representative Isidro Ungab said that there had been attempts from congressmen to insert around P70-B to P90-B in the budget for the public works projects in their respective districts.
But Ungab assured that there will be no pork barrel in the national budget.
“I have to be prank and honest. Mahirap talaga kasi malaki yung amount. Mahirap ma-entertain yung kanilang request,” Ungab said.
The annual budget was expected to be approved before the first session break on October.
The Ungab committee approved on Monday, September 9, its report on the proposed PHP4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.
In an executive session, the panel approved without amendments the committee report on House Bill 4228, principally authored by Ungab, which seeks to appropriate funds for the operation of the government from January 1 to Dec. 31, 2020.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, senior vice chair of the appropriations panel, said the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) is a “faithful” copy of the National Expenditure Program.
Salceda also stressed that the budget bill reflects the national goals, particularly providing a safe and comfortable life for all, becoming an upper-middle income country by 2022, and A- credit rating also by 2022.
“We want to approve a budget that really serves our people, serves our constituencies, and of course, reflects the values of our country,” Salceda added.
Ungab noted that his committee has completed in “record time” the hearings on the 2020 budget proposals of all government departments, agencies and offices.
Previous schedules of the House showed that the annual budget hearings usually ended on the fourth week of September.
Ungab said the sponsorship and start of floor deliberations on HB 4228 are scheduled on Tuesday.
He added that the House is sticking to its original target date to pass the proposed national budget, which is before the October 4 recess.
The PHP4.1-trillion budget for 2020 is 12 percent more than this year’s PHP3.7-trillion expenditure program.
With the theme “Continuing the Journey to a More Peaceful and Progressive Philippines”, the 2020 budget will fund projects and programs that will continue the journey towards a more peaceful and progressive Philippines.
The Department of Budget and Management said the 2020 budget will continue to support inclusive growth strategies, aimed at accelerating investments in public infrastructure, improving anti-poverty programs, and intensifying employment generation.
The spending priorities are infrastructure development, food security, human capital development, and peace and national security. (with PNA report)
Former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez allocated himself with PHP5 billion in government projects in the PHP3.757-trillion proposed national budget for 2019.
Alvarez’s closest allies, former Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas was allocated PHP3.5 billion, while former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations Karlo Alexei Nograles received PHP4 billion.”
Alvarez (First District, Davao del Norte), is on top of the list of congressmen with the biggest projects in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for 2019.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. on Tuesday revealed that the former Speaker and his allies got the biggest allocations for their districts in the proposed national budget for 2019.
Andaya disclosed this in his letter to President Rodrigo Duterte, explaining the position of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regarding the PHP2.4 billion worth of projects allocated for her district in Pampanga.
He said the allies of the previous leadership received larger allocations than Arroyo under the 2019 national budget.
He noted that the current Speaker’s district only ranked 60th, while his district placed 110th in terms of appropriations for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“On top of the list with biggest DPWH projects is the district of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez with PHP5 billion, while the district of the former Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas was allocated PHP3.5 billion, and district of former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations Karlo Alexei Nograles received PHP4 billion,” Andaya said.
He said the DPWH leadership reportedly knew nothing about these “huge funding spikes in other favored districts”.
He further cited the National Economic Development Authority, revealing that many of these projects were not recommended by the Regional Development Councils.
“I am certain that if this fine print of the budget was brought to the President’s attention by his Budget officials, he would not have countenanced it as it would violate his oft-repeated promise to the people of equal progress for all,” Andaya said in his letter.
Andaya said the directive of the present House leadership is to give residents in all districts “equal opportunity for growth and the same access to services” through the national budget.
“What the present House leadership did was, in a manner compliant with all laws, to purge the budget of development favoritism and as much as possible apportion next year’s spending to all districts in a fair manner,” he said.
When sought for comment, Alvarez said he has no idea of Andaya’s allegation regarding the DPWH funds allocated for his district since he has not seen the National Expenditure Program (NEP) nor has he attended any budget hearing at the House.
“I don’t know with him. I have not attended a single budget hearing. I have not even seen the NEP,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez added that the preparation of the NEP is solely an executive function.
Farinas, meanwhile, also has no knowledge of the allocation for his district, noting that everything listed therein was in the NEP submitted by the President.
“I left the Majority two days after the SONA (State of the Nation Address) when I joined the Minority, and there is no way I could have added anything to it. I did not attend any budget hearing since then as I was on medical leave starting Sept. 15 when I suffered injuries from Typhoon Ompong,” Farinas told reporters in a group message.
“But I will not be surprised if the amount is accurate since my district has one of the longest national highways in the country from Laoag to the boundary of Cagayan province. The bridge alone for the Laoag-Bacarra bypass road is about PHP1 billion (multi-year allocations),” he added.
Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson disclosed that a male lawmaker from Camarines Sur got at least PHP1.9 billion and Pampanga’s second district received PHP2.4 billion worth of congressional insertions.
Andaya represents the first district of Camarines Sur, while Arroyo represents the second district of Pampanga.
Arroyo admitted that she felt unfairly criticized when she was singled out for getting supposedly the lion’s share in the allocations per district under the national budget for next year.
“There were 60 to 90 more who got bigger than my district,” Arroyo said.
“Yes, yes (I feel criticized). Why should I deprive the people of my district? I’m only upper middle class as far as the allocations are concerned,” she added. (PNA)
Senator Leila de Lima during the hearing on extrajudicial killings at the Senate session hall, Pasay City. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON
Senator Leila De Lima on Tuesday said that being linked to the multi-million pork barrel scam case involving business woman and alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles was “unfair,” stressing that she herself handled the cases of Napoles when she was Justice Secretary.
“That’s a rehashed issue. Why do they keep digging old issues? Who is responsible for the detention of Napoles? Then they link me to Napoles? That’s too unfair,” De Lima said in a mix of English and Filipino.
De Lima reacted following President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier announcement to re-investigate the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam case involving Napoles and some senators.
Duterte also claimed that he received information about a De Lima’s phone conversations between her and her driver Ronnie Dayan that revealed her links to illegal drug trade in Bilibid Prison.
The said conversation also provided information on their ATM records, Duterte said.
This led Congress to call for a probe on the senator’s alleged involvement in illegal drug operations inside the prison.
De Lima, however, maintained that she was never involved in drugs.
“The Committee on Justice conducted also a series of hearing twice or thrice inside Bilibid. We had an ocular inspection with the Congressional committee last Dec 15 2014,” the former Justice Secretary said.
“I initiated it (the probe) so why will they investigate me? I found a way to expose the drug problems there. Don’t they know that I exerted certain efforts, steps after discovering all of those inside Bilibid?” she added.
De Lima refused to dwell on the topic saying that she did not find a “legitimate matter” for the purpose of the inquiry.
She meanwhile vowed not to let the allegations against her affect her work at the Senate.
“I’ve always been strong. I’m used to confronting a lot of challenges,” she said. (PNA)