Salceda blames opposition for questionable P15-M road project in 2020 budget
Maris Federez • October 8, 2019 • 669
Albay Representative Joey Salceda on Tuesday (October 8) defended the Lower House against what Senator Panfilo Lacson has referred to as a “sloppy job” on the 2020 national budget.
Lacson particularly mentioned the 15 million-peso road project which he referred to as a mere “cut and paste” work.
The House Committee on Ways and Means chairperson, instead, said what they did in the lower chamber can be considered as a job well done because they were able to pass the proposed 2020 national budget within just 30 days.
He added that whatever glitches had occurred may have been caused by the opposition group.
“I don’t think so. I think we did a great job. The House did a great job under Chairman Ungab. It’s probably the opposition that did a sloppy work,” Salceda said.
ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, however, refuted Salceda’s statement.
Castro said they just exposed what they think as a big cut on the budget allotted for education, health, and other public services.
She added that what should be considered sloppy work is the process adopted by the House leadership.
Castro added that the House majority should be held responsible for the approval of the 2020 budget which did not undergo thorough review and consideration.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they will remove the alleged 15-million-peso road improvement fund from the 2020 proposed budget which Lacson discovered.
Sotto said he agrees with Lacson that it is not clear as to which project the said fund will be particularly allocated.
“Hindi sinabi kung anong road kaya sabi nya sloppy. Siempre, ano’ng road yun? Road to perdition o anong road,” he quipped. (from the report of Vincent Arboleda) /mbmf
The House committee on ways and means is set to look into the $1.02 billion in cash allegedly brought in by Chinese nationals in an alleged money laundering scheme.
Committee panel chairman Albay Rep. Joey Salceda called on a closed-door session on Tuesday (March 3) to discuss the issue.
Salceda approved the motion of Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing to conduct an investigation on the $160.58 million in cash allegedly brought into the country by Chinese citizens from December 2019 to February 2020.
However, Salceda said there is $840 million that entered the country through Customs.
“The $160 million that was reported is just a tip of the iceberg. Based on our reports, I have seen that on top of $160 million, there was $840 million that entered last year through Customs through the airports,” he said.
“There is an obvious and apparent use of the power of the Customs covering portable commodities and declaring it without passing through the banking system. Otherwise, this would have had red flags all over the place already. The thing there, it’s $1.02 billion, not $160 million,” Salceda added.—AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)
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.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday (September 23) questioned the P54-Billion allocated for House representatives (HOR) in the 2020 proposed national budget.
“In the initial information that we received, each Deputy speaker, 22 of them, will be receiving an additional allocation of P1.5-B. So that’s P33-B and each congressman will be given an allocation of P700-M,” Lacson said.
The senator sought to have the matter thoroughly checked to ensure that it is not a pork barrel.
Lacson claimed that he got the information from a member of the Lower House.
But based on the statement made by House Committee on Ways and Means chairman Joey Salceda, they are only allocating P100-M to each congressman, which, he said, is based on the need of their respective districts.
Lacson, however, said that the allocation is still questionable, as he is not sure if it had gone through the intense scrutiny of the lower house and the agencies that could be the recipient of such funds.
“Hindi naman dapat pare-pareho ang allocation sa district [Allocation for each district need not be identical]. It should be need-based and priority-based,” he added.
The senator stressed that the law provides that a government agency or a particular district should have already identified a project and the details of which are already itemized in the budget proposal before the said fund is released to them.
“Kung ii-introduce pa lang nila as amendments o individual amendments, lalabas bawat isa sa kanila may P100M [If they will introduce it as admendments or individual amendments, it will turn out that each of them will have P100-M]. Then, if it is not pork, I don’t know what it is,” Lacson further stressed.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, on the other hand, maintained that the fund is not a pork barrel, as it is intended for the construction of flyovers, seaports, airports, and other major highways in their districts.
He also argued that the Senate can scrutinize the budget in the bicameral conference.
“I think Congressman Salceda was just being frank na concern pa rin yung bawat congressman na hindi ma-zero or hindi maisahan yung kaniyang lugar at wala masyadong pondo. Pero walang nakatagong pork,” Cayetano asserted.
[I think Congressman Salceda was just being frank that the congressmen are concerned that their districts will not be left behind and be without a budget. But there is no hidden pork in it.] (from the report of Grace Casin) /mbmf
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