MANILA – A lawmaker believes Senator Panfilo Lacson may just be ''confused'' when he made his claim that the 2017 national budget remains riddled with pork barrel, the discretionary and lump sum type of funds declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.
Lacson yesterday said the 2017 budget was laden with pork barrel, claiming some Lower House members even got P5 billion in discretionary funds.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Alexei Nograles, however, said no pork barrel, officially known as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) can be found in the budget since no post-enactment intervention on government projects will occur.
"That's not true. There is no pork barrel. There is no PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) in the budget. There are no post-enactment projects in the budget. You will only see specific line-item projects that have been identified by different agencies and departments of government. I think that Senator Lacson is confused about this issue," Nograles said.
Lacson earlier aired his frustration after learning that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regained the P8.3 billion that the Senate removed and returned to the budget of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In a statement yesterday, Lacson said the DPWH regained this amount at the expense of the Calamity Fund.
During the budget plenary debates, Lacson had a spat with ARMM lawmakers, who wanted to place the P8.3 billion budget of the region to the DPWH.
The senator sought to block the transfer of funds, saying this was in violation of the ARMM Organic Act. He also branded the P8.3 billion budget as pork barrel.
Nograles, however, stressed identifying projects under the DPWH budget prior to the passage of the budget into law is still in accordance with the Supreme Court decision.
"From its inception the projects and programs have been itemized and spelled out clearly and specifically. From the House all the way to the Senate the DBM monitors every movement of the budget process to ensure there is no violation of the SC decision against pork barrel,"Nograles said.
"We in Congress also exercised strict adherence against the pork barrel to ensure that we comply with the SC decision. If anything, we have made doubly sure that projects and programs are even more specific so there will be no room at all for post-enactment. All our hearings and deliberations will bear this out - which have always been transparent and open. The budget book itself is a public document open to scrutiny by anyone.”
Nograles also sought to calm Lacson’s worries over the slashed calamity fund, noting that the unspent calamity fund in 2016 worth about P25 billion will be carried over to 2017.
“Adding this to the new 2017 appropriations of P15.755 billion, the total calamity fund at government's disposal for 2017 will be more than P40 billion pesos," Nograles said.