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Salceda: No ‘pork’ insertions in House version of 2020 budget

AS the House of Representatives is expected to approve the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 on Friday, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda assured the public that there were would be no “pork barrel” insertions.

Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, made the assurance on Wednesday following reports that some P35.2 billion in “pork barrel” funds of senators and congressmen would be embedded in the proposed budget for next year.

“It is pork-free based on Supreme Court standards. And the mere fact na there are were no new insertions. As is, were is nga,” Salceda said during a media interview in Malacañang, referring to the 2013 Supreme Court ruling declaring unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the pork barrel fund.

“So I mean, in fact it is historic in speed. And the smallness of the institutional and no individual ammendments, zero individual ammendments unlike last year, unlike you know so many years wherein you realign this and that. No there are no individual ammendments. There are only three institutional amendments,” he added.

The House version of the proposed 2020 national budget has been refiled after it was withdrawn last week because of a plea to increase the budget of some of its members by P90 billion for additional infrastructure projects.

It was reported previously that the P35.2 billion in pork barrel funds for lawmakers were supposedly embedded in the proposed 2020 national budget.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had reportedly asked lawmakers to submit their lists of projects for their constituencies and districts.

The allocation is still P100 million for every House member and P200 million for every senator.

A senator’s pork barrel fund consists of P100 million for “hard” projects and P100 million for “soft” projects. For House members, P70 million is for “hard” projects and P30 million for “soft” projects.

Salceda said that the budget allocations for each lawmaker “has been there” but it would still be processed by the concerned executive departments.

“We propose for the inclusion… Kasi ganito ‘yan. Paano naman ‘yong isang congressman na kailangan po ng isang health center, let’s say sa isang barangay diyan sa Quezon City? How do you think it will be funded? So do you consider that pork? Do you? I mean do we?” he said.

“I’m posing it as a challenge to the Senate. We don’t have individual amendments, they shouldn’t have institutional amendments,” Salceda said.

Salceda expressed confidence that the proposed budget for next year would be approved by the House on Friday.

“The 2020 budget, I’m sure, will be approved by September 20 – the earliest approved budget at the House in history,” Salceda said.

“This is in history for those of you who have covered Congress, this will be the earliest. We just wanna prove that the ‘Duterte Super Coalition’ in the House is working, and I hope the so-called ‘Duterte Super Coalition of 20’ in the Senate will do the same,” he added.

The passage of the 2019 budget was delayed for months due to questionable allocations and alleged pork insertions in Congress.

In a strongly-worded warning to Congress, President Rodrigo Duterte said in his veto message that he would “not tolerate attempts to circumvent the Constitution” as he vetoed P95.3-billion appropriations in the 2019 national budget.

Pork barrel is a program that channels funds to congressional districts. It is used in the budget to give lawmakers lump-sum allocations to finance their pet projects after the appropriations law has been approved.

Several senators and congressmen are facing plunder and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly pocketing billions in commissions and kickbacks from their PDAF-funded projects. CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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