By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Even senators can allocate funds for their home provinces and local constituents.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said this Saturday amid the exchange of tirades between members of the Senate and House of Representatives over the supposed insertion of “pork barrel” funds into the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget.
Recto, in a radio interview Saturday afternoon, admitted having submitted “a little less than” P70 billion in individual and “institutional” amendments to the Senate-approved General Appropriations Bill (GAB), including funds for his hometown Batangas province.
“Yes, we did submit as well,” the Senate leader told radio DWIZ.
He was not able to disclose the specific amount of his personal amendments, although he said some were allocated to Pampanga and Batangas.
He said mayors sought his office to ask budget for programs, such as the reconstruction of damaged bridges and other infrastructure projects.
But P68 billion of the total amount, Recto said, were institutional and made to fund the implementation of new laws, including P30 billion for the creation ofBangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; P10 billion for rice tarrification law; another P10 billion for the coco levy fund; and P18 billion for the Universal Health Care program.
Recto said the Executive Branch did not include the said programs in the National Expenditure Program it transmitted to Congress.
“Tawaginnanatinkahitanonggustong [itawag]. Pero angsa akin, syempreangmgasenador, may mga hometown ‘yan, may mga home provinces ‘yan. Maraminglumalapitsasenador, katuladnarin ng mga congressman, nanagfofollow-up ng local community-based project sakani-kanilangmga hometown. Kaya naiintindihankorin ‘yan. (You can call it whatever you want. But for me, of course, senators have home provinces, too. Many are seeking our office, like congressmen, to follow up on the community-based projects in their respective hometowns. That’s why I also understand senators who push for individual amendments.),” he said.
He added that the senators’ “constituencies” expect to see the product of the taxes they are paying to the national government, such as important infrastructure, and “better services.”
Recto said he has no problem with releasing his amendments to the public since these were already itemized in the GAB.
He said his proposed amendments also underwent the legislative process, and that some project listings he submitted were not approved by the Upper Chamber.
Recto was reacting to the expose by Senator PanfiloLacson that each congressman would receive some P160 million in alleged “pork” insertions, on top of the P51-billion individual amendments to their approved GAB version.
Lacson also claimed that some senators made some P23 billion “insertions” to the Department of Public Works and Highways’ 2019 budget alone.
Asked about Recto’s statement, Lacson, in a separate interview also over DWIZ, acknowledged that local government units also approach senators for additional funding in their areas.
“Okay langnamannapagbigyanpero mag-konsultamunasaahensyana mag-iimplement, otherwise, hindikasamsa planning ‘yon…Hindi namankayang mag-implenta ng mga senators, either DPWH of DA (Department of Agriculture), o kung anomangahensya. Either makipag-ugnayansaahensyana ‘Ako’ymaglalagay ng budget kaya niyo bang iimplementa?’ o ‘Baka may duplication pakitignannamanito.’ Kung nagyari ‘yon, walangproblemadoon Pero kung walang consultation, nagiging arbitrary o whimsical ‘yong amendment,” he said.
Lacson had insisted that his proposed amendments to the GAB were institutional since he vowed to reject any individual budget allocations which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional.
Aside from Recto, Senator Cynthia Villar earlier admitted pushing for an individual amendment but did not disclose how much. (Manila Bulletin)