SECTIONS
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Barrita: Is the budget porkless?

PRESIDENT Rody Duterte signed into law on Thursday Republic Act No. 10924, the 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA) that covers the 2017 P3.35-trillion national budget.

Was the much-maligned pork barrel fund still inserted in the 2017 GAA which, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said, was the country’s biggest annual budget assembled so far?

Look at the photos in today’s newspapers and try to find out whether the lawmakers who witnessed its signing were grinning from ear to ear. But no, you won’t hear them singing “Happy days are here again.”

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Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson earlier said he plans to question before the Supreme Court the pork insertions in the 2017 national budget.

Pork barrel funds, called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Countrywide Development Fund, were items in the GAA that used to finance lawmaker’s pet projects.

A senator gets P200 million a year in PDAF and a representative, P70 million, before the Supreme Court (SC) declared it unconstitutional in November 2013.

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Lacson and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian voted against the Senate ratification of the 2017 GAA on their belief there were “billions” in pork barrel allocations in the first budget of the Duterte administration.

Lacson insisted the pork barrel insertions were “parked” in the budgets of the departments of public works and highways, social welfare and development, education and health.

An SC case should put to rest whether there are indeed pork barrel insertions in the 2017 budget.

***

The 2017 GAA gave the highest allocation to the Department of Education (DepEd) with P544.1 billion. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said this would fund the hiring of more teachers and construction of schools.

Diokno said around 600,000 new teachers would be hired next year and 47,500 school buildings would be constructed. “We are investing in our children’s future because they are our greatest assets,” Diokno said.

As Mark Twain said, “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail.” Because of our chronic lack of classrooms, our jails are now bursting at the seams.
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