Palace: Duterte to veto items in budget if it violates SC ruling on pork

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2019 04:08 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte will veto items in the proposed 2019 budget if he sees that these violate a 2013 Supreme Court ruling outlawing pork barrel, or lump sum and discretionary items often tied to questionable and even non-existent projects.

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to use his veto power to remove all pork barrel insertions in the 2019 appropriations measure.

In a Twitter post, Lacson told Duterte: "Mr President, you have displayed your strong political will on several occasions. This time, use your line-item veto power over the 2019 appropriations measure by removing all the 'pork' inserted by lawmakers who are incorrigibly insatiable and simply 'beyond redemption.'"

Reacting to Lacson’s call, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said: "The President, as a lawyer, he knows his law [and] if he thinks that that is in violation of the doctrine enunciated by the Supreme Court, he will do what is right."

"What we recognize is power of Congress to review and amend to whatever it feels necessary and right. If the President feels it is wrong, he can use his power to veto."

Deliberations on the 2019 budget have been stalled due to allegations of pork insertions. Both Houses aim to ratify the P3.8-trillion spending bill before the 17th Congress adjourns this week.

The government is currently operating on a reenacted budget and finance officials have warned it could affect the country's economy.

Lacson earlier warned the spending bill approved by the House of Representatives has P160 million worth of projects earmarked to lawmakers.

But Panelo said there is nothing inherently wrong with allocating a certain amount to a district, if that area indeed needs funds.

“When you allocate, the reasonable assumption is they need it. What’s important for the President is, are you using that or you will just pocket the funds? Districts need money to improve [themselves],” he said.

Since the SC ruling outlawing the congressional pork barrel funds, formally known as the Priority Development Assistance Funds, critics have been scrutinizing the yearly budget for any trace of the lump sum and discretionary funds.

Lawmakers are still allowed to identify and propose projects for their respective districts, as long as this is not done after the enactment of the budget law, a common practice prior to the declaration of pork barrel as unconstitutional.