Alan says ‘pork-free’ budget possible if… | Malaya Business Insight

Vigilia, W. (2019, July 15). Alan says ‘pork-free’ budget possible if…. Malaya Business Insight. Retrieved July 15, 2019 from

Alan says ‘pork-free’ budget possible if…
By WENDELL VIGILIA – July 15, 2019

THE devil is in the details.

Presumptive speaker Alan Peter Cayetano wants Congress to clearly define what “pork barrel” allocations are to be able to rid the annual national budget of the budgetary item which the Supreme Court has declared illegal in 2014.

Cayetano said he shares Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s stand against the pork barrel system.

“On that point, I will agree with Sen. Lacson that we should remove all kinds of pork (from the annual national budget),” Cayetano said in a live video he posted on his Facebook page.

Cayetano said the House and the Senate should first be able to clearly define what is considered “pork” because there are many legitimate government projects that need to be funded, especially public works.

“That doesn’t mean that we’ll abolish all government projects in every corner of the country, right?
Let’s define pork clearly because if we create hospitals, bridges, ports and relocation centers for typhoon-prone areas like Samar, Bicol and Batanes, is that pork? Or are those legitimate projects that our people need?” he asked.

In its 2014 decision, the Supreme Court prohibited lawmakers “to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various post-enactment stages of the budget execution.”

This means lawmakers cannot identify or propose projects to be funded by the different departments and agencies once the national budget or the General Appropriations Act (GAA) has been enacted.

The push to remove the “pork barrel” system in the budget process was prompted by relentless reports of corruption, a kick-off to allegations of wide-scale bribery in the lobbying for government contracts.

The bigger the allocation for a particular project, the bigger the opportunity for graft and corruption since contractors are known to offer hefty commissions in exchange for cornering huge contracts.
Before the High Court’s ruling, senators and congressmen identified projects to be funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) after the national budget is passed, which made the system prone to abuse because of the level of discretion given to lawmakers.

But even after the SC prohibition, some lawmakers have still been able to obtain unnecessarily huge allocations for their districts during budget deliberations, which some critics claim can are still considered “pork.”

Last year, Lacson said all 292 congressmen were set to receive a minimum of P160 million in pork funds under the 2019 budget.

Lacson had pointed out then that when pork was not yet outlawed, each congressman received only at least P60 million for their districts while a senator gets P200 million.

However, now that it is prohibited by the Supreme Court, he said each congressman is entitled to P160 million.

Just before the House approved the 2019 budget last year, the leadership of then Speaker Gloria Arroyo, a former president, was able to discover a P75 billion insertion which they blamed to then Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

Diokno later snubbed the House committee on rules’ hearings on the issue, his alleged manipulation of the annual national budget and the conflict of interest he was accused of committing for allegedly giving undue advantage to Aremar Construction which is owned by the family of the in-laws of his daughter Charlotte.

Then majority leader Rolando Andaya accused Diokno of favoring favoring the province of Sorsogon by giving it too many flood-control projects.

Diokno’s daughter Charlotte is married to Romeo “Jojo” Sikat, Jr., the son of Sorsogon Vice Governor Ester Hamor with a previous partner.

When the deliberations reached the bicameral level, discussions were initially stalled after congressmen demanded that senators itemize their own P190 billion “insertions” which then Sen. Loren Legarda, who chaired the Senate finance committee, called “institutional amendments.”

The bicameral panels later agreed to limit their “realignments” in the 2019 national budget to some P200 billion for both chambers.

Category: National | Malaya Business Insight

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