PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte would wield his veto power to get rid of the alleged "pork barrel" funds inserted in the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, Malacañang assured the public on Tuesday, September 24.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo gave the assurance after Senator Panfilo Lacson claimed that under the proposed 2020 National Expenditure Plan, around P1.5 billion would be given to each House deputy speaker and some P700 million would be received by each congressman.
"That is his (Duterte) constitutional duty - to scrutinize the budget," Panelo told Palace reporters.
"With respect doon sa allegation of pork, it's always the President who will decide. The President is a lawyer. So if from his legal point of view, [it] is unconstitutional relative to this alleged pork, then he will veto that as he did propr to this budget," he added.
To recall, Duterte signed this year's budget on April 15, but vetoed the P95.3 billion worth of items that are "violative" of the 1987 Constitution.
The passage of the 2019 General Appropriations Act was delayed following the alleged insertions and realignments made by the lawmakers, including the supposed P75-billion insertion in the proposed budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The P75 billion included in the initial funding for DPWH was among those vetoed by the President.
On September 17, Duterte certified as urgent the proposed 2020 budget to “address the need to maintain continuous government operations following the end of the current fiscal year.”
The House of Representatives approved the 2020 budget bill on third and final reading on September 20, 2019, two weeks ahead of its self-imposed deadline.
Amid claims that the 2020 budget plan contained pork barrel allocations, Panelo said the fate of the questionable funds "will depend on the needs of particular district."
"I think whether the budget is reasonable or not will depend on the needs of a particular district . It could be the priorities require that kind of amount in a particular district," he said.
"Even if it's an urban place, kung mayroong kailangan sa isang aspect ng siyudad na 'yun na kailangan nila, that kind of amount, ibibigay pa rin 'yun (if there is one aspect that city needs, that kind of amount will be provided)," Panelo added.
The Palace official, nevertheless, said the President has the final say on the proposed items of appropriations included in next year's budget.
"Now, whether or not this is pork barrel, that will depend on the evaluation of the President, consistent with what the Supreme Court has decided on the matter," he added.
In 2013, the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund or the pork barrel, a discretionary fund that allowed lawmakers to allot funds for their pet projects. (SunStar Philippines)