MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday challenged his fellow lawmakers to bare the amendments they made to the proposed 2020 national budget following his allegations that billions-worth of “pork” funds were “parked” in the budget bill.
Lacson said such a show of transparency would dispel suspicions that the amendments are stained with “pork barrel” funds.
“We should make everything public. That includes all amendments we submit, whether institutional or individual,” Lacson said in an interview on DZBB radio.
“Most if not all lawmakers have their own websites. Why not post their amendments there, for the public to scrutinize?” he added.
Lacson lamented that in previous years, some lawmakers submit their amendments to their respective finance or appropriations chairpersons without having them go through floor deliberations.
“Instead of having their amendments undergo scrutiny in-floor deliberations, some lawmakers propose their amendments verbally, or even scribble them on napkins,” he said.
The lawmaker said that during Congress’ deliberation on the 2019 budget, he used his website to post his proposed institutional changes.
Institutional amendments pertain to programs and projects that have undergone planning and vetting, and are based on requests from concerned implementing agencies.
Lacson said such institutional amendments are proposed by lawmakers who find merit in them after vetting with relevant agencies.
Individual amendments, meanwhile, pertain to projects based mainly on lawmakers’ intervention and are considered legislators’ pet projects.
“In most cases, these do not involve consultations with the implementing agencies concerned, nor are they part of the Local Development Plans of the Local Government Units,” Lacson said.
He added that such programs can be considered pork barrel, based on the 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court that deems as unconstitutional projects that are “whimsical and arbitrary.”
The 2013 Supreme Court ruling declaring pork barrel as unconstitutional covers “all informal practices of similar import and effect, which the Court similarly deems to be acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”
In pushing for transparency in the national budget, Lacson said people have the right to know where their taxes are going, especially amid the country’s growing debt that now stands at more than P7.9 trillion.
“The national budget involves the people’s money. It should benefit the people and not a few senators or congressmen or even government officials who implement projects. And the budget is funded by our taxes, as well as borrowings if our tax collections fall short,” he said.
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