By Ben Rosario
If Senate leaders are convinced that post-bicam re-alignment is either unconstitutional or irregular, then Senate should stop acting like it was not doing the same thing.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said senators have been harping against the alleged of P79 billion in insertions allegedly made by the House of Representatives in the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA), but conveniently ignored theirs.
“Senators are desperately looking for ghosts in the 2019 General Appropriations Act. The problem, they seem to find ghosts everywhere except at their own house,” said Andaya in a press statement.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson have publicly accused the Lower House of tinkering with the proposed 2019 GAA even after the ratification of the bicameral committee report.
Sotto and Lacson claimed the move was orchestrated by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, an accusation that earned strong condemnation from congressmen.
“If post-bicam itemization of lump-sum budget by the House of Representatives is unconstitutional or irregular, what about post-bicam realignment by the Senate of P75 billion in the national budget?” Andaya asked.
He said Sotto and Lacson should explain to the public the P75 billion realignment made by them after the two legislative chambers ratified the 2019 GAA.
He said the re-alignment could not be found in the bicameral conference committee report.
“Worse, unlike in the House of Representatives, there are no proponents for the Senate realignment. Meaning, the funds are parked somewhere in the national budget. This is clearly parked pork,” said Andaya.
Andaya said he expects the senators to justify the realignment as “institutional amendments”, apparently referring to Lacson’s description of budgetary insertions he sponsored.
“But how can they describe the Senate’s P25-billion realignment that was parked in the DPWH budget? Still institutional amendments?” asked Andaya.
He stressed: “I wish to make it clear. Of the P75-billion post-bicam realignment by the Senate, at least P25 billion was parked as additional fund for the senators’ pet projects in the DPWH.”
No details of the parked funds were contained in the bicam report.
The controversy over park funds first surfaced when congressmen found P52 billion in unexplained funding in the National Expenditure Program. The amount, which later turned out to be actually P75 billion, was found in the congressional districts of a number of House members, particularly ousted leaders of the chamber.
“Members of Congress will again be at a loss how the parked funds of the senators found their way to the congressional engineering districts. Lolobo na naman ang pondo ng mga engineering districts at sasabihin na sa mga congressmen iyon,” Andaya lamented.
According to Andaya the House merely did its job to itemize the amendments they introduced in the GAA.
“We itemized our amendments. The itemization was within the parameters of the Bicameral Conference Committee Report ratified by each chamber,” he said.
“If lump-sums are not itemized, then that is illegal and unconstitutional. That was the main reason why we scrutinized the budget proposal because there were insertions made without the knowledge of officials concerned,” Andaya said.