By GLEE JALEA
September 20, 2019
The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives denied availing themselves of the P100-million “pork” fund allocated to congressmen for itemized projects to be included in the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget.
Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said such itemized allotments for party-lists and district representatives could still be considered pork.
“This is the same patronage and corruptive system used by the executive department, then and now, to keep Congress under its strong influence and pliant to its wishes,” Zarate said.
“Even if it is argued that it is not contrary to the 2013 Supreme Court decision outlawing lump sum allocation and post enactment intervention of congress members, this 2020 congressional entitlement is still part of the pervasive patronage system that unfortunately marks our budget process,” he added.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said the P100-million allocation for itemized projects for each lawmaker would amount to a P35-billion pork barrel fund, and could lead to hefty cuts in the allocation for education and health services.
She urged lawmakers to reject the pork and to rechannel the funds to public services.
P100M not enough
Magsasaka party-list Rep. Argel Cabatbat, who admitted availing of the allocation, said on Thursday he initially requested for an amount four times larger for his group’s proposed hard and soft projects such as farm-to-market road projects and water impoundment for farmers.
The lawmaker said from their proposal, around P50 million worth of projects were already approved in the first version of the 2020 General Appropriations Bill, but his party-list initially requested P300 to P400 million.
Rep. Joey Salceda, House Ways and Means committee chairman, revealed that lawmakers would get P100 million each, P70 for hard projects such as farm-to-market roads and other infrastructure programs, and P30 million for soft projects such as medical assistance for their constituents.
But Salceda reiterated that the budget remains “pork-free.”
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