By Ben Rosario
Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, broke the silence of the House of Representatives amid Senator Panfilo Lacson’s continued tirade against congressmen, maintaining that the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 is “pork free.”
Lacson has been accusing congressmen of “treacherously’ inserting over P91 billion in pork barrel expenditures when they reportedly made last-minute amendments to the bicameral committee report of the 2020 General Appropriations Act before the Lower House and Senate ratified it on Wednesday.
Ungab strongly objected the senator’s accusations, saying that if there were changes in the GAB, these were all “aligned with the President’s priorities.” He added that such changes were also based on the recommendations of the Cabinet departments and other government agencies.
So far, it was only Ungab who has issued a statement in defense of the Lower House against Lacson’s accusations.
“The 2020 budget is pork free,” stated Ungab.
The senior administration lawmaker explained that the Lower House was fully cognizant of the Supreme Court ruling that declared pork barrel funds as “unconstitutional”. He said they likewise acknowledged the SC’s definition of what constituted pork.
Many House members know “pork barrel funds” as post enactment allocations in the national budget.
“In compliance with the express instructions of the President, the 2020 GAB contains no pork, no last-minute insertions and no parked funds,” said Ungab, a close political ally of President Duterte.
The senior administration lawmaker assured the public that the budget process “was undertaken with utmost transparency.”
“Attempts to label the 2020 budget pork-ridden by constantly redefining ‘pork’ is unfair and misleading.,” Ungab said, apparently directing his comment at Lacson.
“It represents the clear 2020 vision of the President and his economic strategy anchored on increased spending in infrastructure and human capital development,” he stressed.
According to Ungab the 2020 GAB that the bicameral conference committee approved “is a powerful tool that will help deliver President Duterte’s goal of a safe and comfortable life for all.”
Lacson is a member of the bicameral panel but was a no-show when the group voted to approve the report.
House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante said Lacson only has himself to blame if there were indeed efforts to insert projects to be funded.
“He was not there when the bicameral report was approved,” said Abante.
Lacson has claimed that insertions for P95-billion worth of pork barrel funds was made by the House bicameral panel. He described this alleged act of congressmen as “treachery. “