The proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020 now only needs the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte to be enacted into law after the Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on House Bill 4228 or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
The House of Representatives had earlier ratified the national expenditure plan.
The Senate swiftly ratified the 2020 budget with no objections from the senators present despite earlier claims by Senator Panfilo Lacson that House members allegedly made last-minute insertions to the budget prior to its signing by the bicameral conference committee.
Lacson said based on a list sent by the House to his office, the alleged “corruption-driven” insertions could reach as high as P83 billion.
“Pork is here to stay. I hope the President will again exercise his political will in vetoing line items that will obviously waste people’s tax money,” the veteran legislator said in a statement.
But Senator Sonny Angara dismissed Lacson’s claims, saying the said list is actually the list of projects of congressmen that Lacson has requested.
“House members make insertions yearly because, for them, these are what are needed in their districts.”
“Well, taun-taon naman nag-i-insertion talaga ang House members, kasi sa tingin nila, yun ang pangangailangan ng kanilang distrito (House members make insertions yearly because, for them, these are what are needed in their districts),” Angara said.
Besides, the chair of the Senate Committee on Finance said such projects allocations could not be considered as pork barrel funds if they are itemized.
“We tried to conform to the decision of the Supreme Court.”
“If it’s a line item, according to the Supreme Court, hindi naman siya pork (it is not pork). We tried to conform to the decision of the Supreme Court. We tried to avoid lump sums and we tried to line item the projects, at dito, wala nang (and here, there is no) post-enactment legislation,” the veteran legislator said.
With the approval of both Chambers of Congress, the seasoned lawmaker said they hope to send the printed copy of the ratified budget to President Duterte in five to seven days.
President Duterte then has until December 31 to sign it to prevent a reenacted budget.
“That’s our goal given what happened to the 2019 budget. The growth of our economy was greatly affected and many projects in the provinces were not continued. We want to prevent that,” the senator said.