SENATE President pro-tempore Franklin Drilon on Monday admitted that he submitted his proposed project hoping that it would be funded in the 2017 national budget but insisted that there is nothing illegal about it since the proposal was made before the passage of the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“It’s less than P300 million but I submitted. I’m not ashamed of it. It’s up to the President to review it,” Drilon said when interviewed by reporters after attending the meeting with members of the France Southeast Asia Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group at Sofitel in Pasay City.
He noted that legislators suggest programs for funding but these proposals are reviewed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. A proposal can also be vetoed as a line item by the President.
Drilon said that during the budget deliberations, the leadership of the Senate and the chairman of the Committee on Finance asked senators to identify their projects that will be submitted for Congress’ approval.
The senator maintained that the move does not violate the Supreme Court’s decision declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” unconstitutional because there is no post enactment intervention.
“That is the essence why the PDAF was declared unconstitutional because the merit of a particular project being included in the budget is not subject to review because it’s a post budget intervention,” he explained.
He pointed out that even if legislators were allowed to submit projects before the enactment of the budget, there is no guarantee that these proposals will be approved.
Drilon said he submitted for possible funding a flood control project in Iloilo.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson last week claimed that some senators and members of the House of Representatives got billions of pesos under the 2017 GAA which he considered as “pork.”
He said senators were offered as much as P300 million while some congressmen were given up to P5 billion in projects.
Lacson said that he, Senate majority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd and Sen. Francis Pangilinan did not submit any proposed projects.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd denied asking senators to identify P300 million worth of projects when the national budget was discussed by the chamber.
He however said that it is normal for the proposed national budget to undergo amendments.
Pimentel also sees nothing wrong with lawmakers identifying projects they want funded in the national budget before it is enacted.
As for allegations that the 2017 budget contains “pork,” Pimentel said he and Lacson may have different technical definitions of “pork barrel”.
He maintained that what is considered unconstitutional by the High Tribunal is the involvement of legislators in implementing the budget or in making the budget complete after the budget law has been enacted.
“In this particular case, when a legislator helps in the budget process but it can be implemented after the enactment of the budget law without the legislator’s intervention, then that is no longer the act declared unconstitutional by the SC,” Pimentel said. Jefferson Antiporda