• House to pass P14.6-billion supplemental budget today

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    The House of Representatives is set to pass the supplemental budget today on third and final reading amid the government’s rehabilitation efforts in areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda, πa lawmaker reported on Sunday.

    Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City, chairperson of the House appropriations committee, said that the P14.6-billion supplemental budget would be transmitted to the Senate on the same day.

    “We will be taking up the supplemental budget tomorrow [Monday] in the House plenary and we hope to pass the budget also the same day so we can transmit it to the Senate given the urgency of rebuilding of affected areas,” he said.

    The lawmaker explained that the House plenary would no longer subject the supplemental budget contained in House Bill 3423 to second reading because President Benigno Aquino 3rd certified the measure as urgent on Thursday.

    “We need to act expeditiously so as to allow the executive to [utilize]the budget before Christmas Day,” Ungab added.

    The House appropriations committee passed the bill on Wednesday as a lump-sum fund.

    Meanwhile, Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna on Sunday said that the supplemental budget should not become another form of “pork barrel” and underscored the need for Congress to itemize the budget following the recent decision of the Supreme Court (SC) on the issue.

    “We have to fund the rehabilitation of the calamity-stricken areas but through a supplemental budget from the president detailing what is actually needed instead of a shotgun lump sum budget without a plan as to what projects to undertake as this is vulnerable to patronage politics and misuse,” he said.

    “The Senate and the House cannot cure the illegality of PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] by merely realigning it as a lump sum again. This may again be struck down by the SC for realigning an illegal fund which should not even be in the budget,” the lawmaker added.

    Colmenares underlined, “This is like transferring or transforming one pork into another pork and worse, it may not even reach the people.”

    Ungab, however, noted that the bill for the supplemental budget obliged the executive department to provide Congress a list of infrastructures that will be repaired using the said fund.

    The budget is sourced from the unused 2013 PDAF recently declared as unconstitutional by the SC.

    However, budget transparency advocates argue that passing a supplemental budget is unnecessary since it was the nature of the PDAF and the disbursement process—not the allocation itself—that was declared by the High Court as unconstitutional.

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