Lacson says 2020 budget ‘pork-free,’ but warns of possible last-minute insertions

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Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 19) — Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Tuesday said the proposed ₱4.1 trillion 2020 national budget is currently “pork-free,” but he warned of possible insertions when the spending plan reaches the bicameral conference committee.

“It appears walang pork. As announced, ₱9.5 billion institutional amendments talagang ‘yun lang. We couldn’t find anything that was manipulated from the National Expenditure Program to the version of the House transmitted to the Senate,” Lacson told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

[Translation: It appears that there are no pork insertions. As announced, they only included ₱9.5 billion institutional amendments. We couldn’t find anything that was manipulated from the National Expenditure Program to the version of the House transmitted to the Senate.]

Ang worrisome, even after they approved the House bill, may announcement sila na they are still entertaining submission of individual amendments to a small group committee. I don’t know where that’s coming from, but isa lang ang pwedeng reason; they would still hold on to these individual amendments, we don’t know how much, and this will be inserted during bicameral conference,” the senator added.

[Translation: What's worrisome, however, is after the House budget bill was approved, there was an announcement that individual amendments could still be submitted. I don't know where that is coming from, but there could be only one reason: they would still hold on to these individual amendments, we don’t know how much, and this will be inserted during bicameral conference.]

The bicameral committee is tasked to reconcile the differences in both chambers’ versions of the spending plan before sending it to the President. Lacson, however, pointed out that some amendments excluded in the two versions of the proposal are made during this juncture.

Dapat kung meron silang isasama na additional amendment na hindi kasama sa House version, they should submit everything to us first and we’ll meet as Senate committee discuss it and determine which are acceptable and which are not. And then ibalik na lang sa bicameral panel ‘yung mga contentious, 'yung mga pwede naming i-accept fine wala nang discussion," he said.

[Translation: If there are amendments that are not included in the House version of the bill, they should submit everything to us first and the Senate committee will discuss it and determine which are acceptable and not. And then we will return the contentious ones to the bicameral panel while there would be no discussions on the acceptable ones.]

With this, lawmakers should "define the parameters" of the bicameral conference, Lacson said.

The senator said the passage of the budget bill will not be delayed as Congress is "right on schedule."

The current budget was only passed last April, leading to delayed projects and slower economic growth.

Lacson earlier alleged that some ₱20 billion lump sum funds have been inserted into allocations for several agencies. He claimed that the allocations are distributed across projects, programs, and activities without details as to how the money will be used.

READ: Lacson flags ₱20B 'pork' in 2020 budget

He also questioned ₱56.7 billion last-minute "insertions" and "realignments" in the 2019 budget bill, which caused friction between the House and the Senate.