Angara to make sure all 24 senators get to scrutinize the budget; Drilon to carve out pork

Published August 8, 2019, 6:36 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Hannah Torregoza 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday vowed to scrutinize the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget amid reports that the National Expenditure Program (NEP) contains at least P35-billion worth of “pork” barrel.

Sen. Franklin Drilon (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Franklin Drilon
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Next year’s proposed budget is 12 percent higher than the 2019 national budget of P 3.662-trillion.

“Whether it is pork or beef, we will find out when the budget is submitted to us. We will question it and exert every effort to weed out pork from the national budget,” Drilon said in a statement.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is expected to submit the 2020 NEP to Congress next week.

“The minority is prepared to scrutinize the budget to make sure that every item in the budget is in accordance with the Constitution and the Supreme Court ruling on the PDAF, and is for the best interest of the public, not the lawmakers,” he stressed.

Drilon reminded that the Supreme Court declared the pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional in 2013.

The minority chief said he believes that getting rid of the pork barrel is a challenge to the new leadership of the Senate, particularly the Senate Committee on Finance headed by Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara.

“It’s a challenge to all of us in the Senate, particularly the committee that hears the budget each year. We are confident that Senator Angara will see to it that the budget is ‘pork-free’,” he said.

“Let us chop off pork in the budget. Anything that smells and looks like pork and bears resemblance to the PDAF system must be taken out immediately,” Drilon added.

Last year’s budget deliberations were delayed due to some lawmakers’ insertions of pork barrel, causing a three-month delay and a reenacted 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Angara, in a separate statement, responded that all 24 senators of the upper chamber would get a chance to thoroughly scrutinize the proposed 2020 budget.

“All 24 sets of eyes in the Senate to scrutinize the 2020 national budget.

I think the scrutiny will be tough and thorough,” Angara said.

“In my seven years in the Senate what I have observed is that oftentimes, the hardest questions come from members of the majority. So the review actually is not just the minority’s job but of every member regardless of political affiliation,” he said.

Angara said each of the senators has an individual check list on how to evaluate an agency budget or spending item. He said some senators will check on the absorptive capacity of an agency especially since there is always underspending.

“Yung iba ang tanong kung aligned ba ito sa (The others I believe will ask if this is aligned to the) development plan, meaning to help the people and not in aid of reelection. Yung iba naman ang specialty is to sniff out items, which are in violation of the Supreme Court’s PDAF ruling,” the senator said.

“May iba gender ang peg; meron naman who will view it from the prism of revenues. Some will bat for more arms for the police, while others, more aid to farms.
It is this interplay of skills, which make the Senate’s review of the budget very detailed,” Angara stressed.

“Parang may division of labor, which results in redundancy in the vetting process. Para sa akin, I apply the four-way test: it compliant with the laws of the land and jurisprudence on appropriations like the SC ruling on PDAF? Is it fiscally-responsible that it will be supported by revenues and when implemented, will not lead to wastage of taxpayers’ money through corruption or inefficiency leakage?”

“Is it aligned with national and local development goals and based on plans, studies and consultation? Is it what the people really want in the sense that it will improve their welfare, brighten their future, and transform their communities for the better?” the senator further said.