Senate awaits House version of 2019 budget before deciding on pork allocations

By Mario Casayuran

The Senate awaits the submission to it by the House of Representatives of its version of the proposed 2019 P3.757 trillion national budget before making a decision on where to distribute the so-called pork barrel allocations that the House leadership has decided to scrap.

Senate of the Philippines / Manila Bulletin Senate of the Philippines / Manila Bulletin

“I don’t know. First, I don’t know if it is ‘pork.’ I don’t want to define as pork. I don’t know,’’ Sen. Loren Legarda, chairwoman of the Senate finance committee, told Bulletin on which department or agency of government would be the recipients of the pork barrel fallout.

Former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been hailed for having the political will to oppose and scrap the so-called “parked pork barrel’’ worth P51.792 billion and re-aligned them to vital projects of key agencies.

Legarda and Senator Panfilo M. Lacson have different interpretations on what constitutes “pork barrel’’ in the General Appropriations Act (GAA or national budget).

The Senate has been conducting public hearings on the budgets of government departments and agencies based on the National Expenditure Program (NEP) which is the draft of the GAA.

Legarda said she could not give a categorical answer to a Bulletin query on where the distribute the ‘’pork barrel’’ because she has yet to receive the House-approved GAA for 2019.

This was the same answer given when asked whether she plans to sit down with her colleagues on the ‘’pork barrel’’ issue.

These colleagues are chairing the five Senate finance sub-committees tasked to conduct public hearings on the national budget.

Rep. Edgar Erice (LP, Caloocan city), had said “it is necessary to investigate how the P55 billion were included in the NEP and if the same thing happened in he 2018 GAA.’’ He was apparently referring to the P51.79 billion.

With at least P15 billion already identified as ‘’parked pork barrel,’’ finding the remainder of huge lump sum allocations of congressional districts in the 2018 budget will be the task of the revived Committee on Legislative Oversight.

Davao city Rep. Karlo Nograles, chairman of the House appropriations committee, had refused to heed Arroyo’s appeal to scrap the “pork barrel.’’

Nograles has been blamed for allowing the “parking’’ of the 30 favored congressional districts of some P51.79 billion funding for various infrastructure projects.