Photo by Office of the Speaker / Press & Public Affairs Bureau
Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should justify the realignments in the proposed 2019 national budget that Senator Panfilo Lacson alleged to be pork, Malacañang said Thursday.
“I think we should ask the Speaker why the allocation is that large as compared to others,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said, referring to the P2.4 billion that Lacson said Arroyo allotted to her district in Pampanga province.
Panelo said an explanation was needed, “given the amount involved and given by the reaction of people like you.”
“We citizens also would like an explanation,” he said at a news briefing.
The Palace need not ask Arroyo to give an explanation, but she has to make one, Panelo said.
“The fact that some quarters are reacting, it behooves those who are involved in the realignment to respond to the protest of some elements of the society,” he said.
Cut, reduce allocations
Panelo said he would ask President Rodrigo Duterte about Lacson’s allegations that Arroyo and House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. appeared to have the biggest share of pork with a total of P4.4 billion worth of projects in the proposed budget for 2019 approved by the House.
Lacson on Thursday challenged the House of Representatives to delete or reduce the huge allocations for Arroyo’s district in Pampanga and Andaya’s district in Camarines Sur if the chamber’s leadership claimed this was a case of a “misplaced gesture of generosity.”
This could be a show of good faith, he said.
The senator was reacting to the statement of Andaya, a Camarines Sur representative, on the report that P2.4 billion worth of projects went to Arroyo’s district and P1.9 billion to Andaya’s district.
“Since [House] Majority Leader Andaya claims that the huge earmarks for his and [Arroyo’s] district are a case of ‘misplaced gesture of generosity,’ maybe they can display a ‘genuine gesture of good faith’ by deleting or reducing those humongous allocations,” Lacson said on Twitter.
Lacson has been waging a campaign to rid the annual spending bill of what he describes as pork, or allocations for pet projects of lawmakers.
In a radio interview, Andaya said the P2.4 billion allotted for Arroyo’s district was proposed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) upon the request of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ regional office.
“The regional director requested it because for the past six years they have no allocations for flood control,” he said.
The flood control projects, he said, would cover not only Pampanga but also the adjacent province of Bulacan.
In 2013, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund, a pork barrel.
‘We can’t allow corruption’
The high court outlawed the pork barrel system as it “allowed legislators to wield, in varying gradations, nonoversight, postenactment authority in vital areas of budget executions [thus violating] the principle of separation of powers.”
Panelo said what was important was that government funds “are spent where they should be spent.”
“But if those money are going to be spent outside of the real purpose, then that’s corruption and we will not allow it,” he said.
Asked whether the President, who has been vocal against corruption, would veto the budget bill, Panelo said he would ask him.
“As I’ve repeatedly said, the basis of the President in all of his actions is No. 1, to serve the people, and No. 2 to protect the people,” he added. —WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING
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