“Provisions in the budget that run counter to the Constitution will be vetoed by the President, there is no chance in that policy,” presidential spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said yesterday.
STAR/File
Duterte to veto unconstitutional budget provisions
Christina Mendez, Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - December 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Whatever would be deemed unconstitutional in the 2020 national budget will surely end up vetoed by President Duterte, Malacañang emphasized yesterday amid claims by Sen. Panfilo Lacson that House members made last-minute insertions during the bicameral conference committee.

“Provisions in the budget that run counter to the Constitution will be vetoed by the President, there is no chance in that policy,” presidential spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said yesterday.

His assurance came in the wake of Lacson’s allegations that P83 billion worth of projects had been inserted into the P4.1-trillion budget program for next year.

Lacson is banking on a presidential veto power to remove the alleged last-minute insertions.

The senator expressed belief that just like during deliberations on the controversial 2019 national budget, the Senate will just let President Duterte have the final say.

He said the Senate would likely just inform the President and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) about the insertions to avoid any impasse with the House of Representatives.

President Duterte then supported the decision of the Senate and vetoed a total of P95 billion in questionable projects.

Lacson said he had already discussed the possibility of a similar scenario with Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Sonny Angara.

“We will list all the questionable items and send them, or inform the President,” he said.

“Of course we cannot influence the President. But we can inform him, ‘Mr President, tulad ng ginawa namin noong nakaraang taon (just like what we did last year),”’ said Lacson in a phone interview with Senate reporters.

He said it was rude for some lawmakers to make last-minute changes in the budget that many of their colleagues had painstakingly tried to fine-tune almost round-the-clock.

“Hindi ba kabastusan yan (Isn’t that insulting)?” Lacson noted.

While there were insertions in the 2020 proposed national budget ratified by senators and congressmen, Lacson said it was worse last year because some congressmen tried to put their insertions even after the bicam had already ratified the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

Earlier, Lacson encouraged all lawmakers to make their amendments public for the sake of transparency.

The senator had posted on his website all the institutional amendments he proposed in the 2020 proposed national budget, including an additional budget for Universal Health Care, Free Tuition Act and National ID Act. He said he will not personally benefit from such amendments.

“There are more corruption-driven insertions in the files sent to us that I have not mentioned. Thus, we will continue to diligently scrutinize it and inform the DBM and the Office of the President, as I have high hopes that President Duterte will again display his aversion to corruption,” he added.

“Pork is here to stay. I hope the President will again exercise his political will in vetoing line items that will obviously waste people’s tax money,” Lacson said.

Meanwhile, militant lawmakers have assailed what they consider the railroaded ratification by the House of Representatives of the bicameral conference committee report approving the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.

The Makabayan bloc led by deputy minority leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate assailed the swift approval of the House plenary of the report last Wednesday afternoon.

“We only had 10 minutes to read the bicameral report before the voting was conducted. We weren’t given ample opportunity to raise our objections,” Zarate said at a weekly forum at the Lower House.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas also questioned the approval of the budget, which she said remained riddled with pork barrel and insertions.

“It’s undeniable that this 2020 budget includes so many projects that will just go to the pockets of contractors and their politician-business partners. And while the few continue to enrich themselves, many of our countrymen remain poor,” she said in Filipino.

For her part, Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago claimed that budgets for intelligence, the police and military budget under the proposed 2020 budget are at historic highs.

“This could spell a budget for more intensified black-operations against dissent; this we have seen in the tyrannical rule of the Duterte regime through threats, harassment and filing of trumped-up charges and fabricating evidences to silence critical and independent voices,” she maintained.

The lawmaker further questioned the P4.5 billion allocated as intelligence fund for the Office of the President. – With Edu Punay

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