Reports had quoted unnamed sources as saying that the P55 billion inserted in the budget was intended for projects of lawmakers who are allies of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Joey Dalumpines/Presidential Photo, File
Palace distances itself from House row over P55B 'pork'
Alexis Romero (philstar.com) - September 18, 2018 - 6:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Tuesday distanced itself from the budget row at the House of Representatives that reportedly stemmed from the P55 billion "pork" that was said to have been inserted into next year's national outlay. 

The scheduled plenary deliberations on the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget has been delayed allegedly because of a rift over a supposed attempt to realign billions in the outlay.

Reports had quoted unnamed sources as saying that the P55 billion inserted in the budget was intended for projects of lawmakers who are allies of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. allegedly tried to realign the amount, a move that reportedly did not sit well with House appropriations committee chair and Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles. Nograles has denied this, saying only the national expenditure program submitted by Malacañang would be defended at the plenary. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said it would be up to Congress to discuss the NEP, noting that the chamber has the power of the purse. 

"Let me put it this way. Malacañang proposed the budget through the NEP; and therefore, we take responsibility for what appears in the NEP. If it is true that there are items which were not in the NEP, then we do not know where that came from; we leave it to the House to do as it deems proper with these items," Roque said in a press briefing. 

"We respect the constitutional mandate of Congress, which has the power of the purse. We have actually discharged our constitutional function when we submitted the NEP or the proposed budget to Congress. But it’s the call of Congress how it will change the NEP, subject to constitutional limitations; cannot be increased, can be reduced," he added. 

Roque could not confirm reports that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and presidential aide Christopher Go had called Andaya and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regarding the alleged budget insertions.

"I cannot confirm, because I was with the president yesterday. What I do know was they were in plenary. ES (executive secretary) was in plenary as well as Finance Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez was in plenary, together with bulk of the members of the cabinet," he said.  

"All the other Cabinet members had to attend to their respective budget hearings in Congress," he added. 

Roque noted that Congress has the power to modify the NEP.

"According to reports, they are quarreling over the amounts which are not included in the NEP because that’s the nature of insertions," the presidential spokesman said.  

"We stand by what appears in the NEP. We appeal that the proposed budget as submitted should be approved, and we leave it to the House to discharge its constitutional mandate to exercise its power over the purse," he added.

CONGRESS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PORK BARREL FUND
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