Local Watchdog Raise Alarm Over Pork Barrel in 2020 Budget, Calls for Tighter Measure
SOCIALWATCH PHILS·THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2020
Social Watch Philippines (SWP) expresses alarm that pork, despite previous official censures, was found to be comfortably snuggling somewhere in the ₱4.1-trillion 2020 national budget. Senator Panfilo Lacson already revealed in December 2019 that “last-minute insertions made by the House” in the bicameral report of the then-budget bill range anywhere between ₱16 billion to ₱83 billion.
The prompt removal of two congressmen as chairs of their respective powerful committees after raising questions about huge allocations to districts and projects of House Leaders proves that pork insertion remains the norm. They got the ire of no less than the House Speaker.
Davao City 3rd Dist. Rep. Isidro Ungab earlier informed President Rodrigo Duterte and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado about alleged insertions in the 2020 budget. Oriental Mindoro 1st Dist. Rep. Paulino Salvador Leachon on the other hand, showed to media proof of additional ₱6-billion budget for infra projects for the 2nd legislative district of Camarines Sur.
According to SWP, while it is within Congress’ power to formulate revisions to the national budget, the list of modified programs or projects should be announced on the floor of both House of Representatives and the Senate. “No House member has come forward to own a list of submissions on the budget formally, however.”
“Years have passed since the Supreme Court declared the pork barrel as illegal, yet it thrives and sadly, in more untransparent processes than ever. Legislators continue to find ways to hide pork from the public eye. While both Houses of Congress are able to get around the Supreme Court ruling by ensuring that their pet projects appear as itemized line-item budgets rather than lump sum amounts in the General Appropriations Act, these itemization happens as confidential submissions to the Committee on Appropriations subject to the approval of Congress leaders. These lists should be made public, put on record and debated on prior to the budget’s passage on second and third reading. The new allocations must be justified based on a particular district’s actual needs, not on the basis of how close a congressman is to the House leadership. And, it should never be done as post-haste insertions during the bicameral conference committee or even after bicam. It is our role as citizens to remain vigilant over these schemes and call out the government to end this practice of maintaining pork barrel funds in all its forms,” it concluded.
Social Watch Philippines (SWP), is a network of a hundred civil society organizations advocating for transparent, efficient, accountable and pro-poor use of public funds.
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