MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte's veto power is the "only hope" to remove alleged last minute insertions in the 2020 national budget that hurdled a bicameral conference of senators and congressmen earlier this week, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Thursday.
Lacson said he would give the budget department and Duterte's office a list of the alleged insertions, which supposedly included 8 flood projects all suspiciously worth P60 million each.
Lawmakers no longer have any control over the matter because the General Appropriations Bill is already due for printing and only the President can veto line items that will waste public funds, the senator said.
"Iyon na lang ang pag-asa namin na mawala iyon," he told radio DZMM.
"Si Pangulong Duterte naman pagdating sa ganyan na nakikita niyang masasayang ang pera ng bayan, talagang umaaksyon naman siya positively. Nasa P95 billion iyong ini-veto niya sa 2019 budget," he added.
(That is our only hope to remove those. President Duterte takes positive action when he sees that public funds will be wasted. He vetoed around P95 billion from the 2019 budget.)
Lacson on Wednesday skipped the signing of the bicameral budget report due to alleged "last minute insertions" which are allegedly detailed in a USB drive that his office received from the House of Representatives.
He said the USB contained a "list" file of 742 projects worth P16.345 billion, which were among 1,253 budget items worth P83.219 billion that were included in a "source" file.
The lawmaker said he could not determine which of the 2 sets of projects were "inserted at the last minute prior to the bicam signing" because "there was no preliminary explanation from the House regarding the 2 files."
"What is clear though is that there are still lump sums and vaguely described projects that are now part of the bicam report," he said in a statement.
The provinces which got the biggest share of the alleged insertions are Albay, P670 million; Cavite, P580 million; Sorsogon, P570 million; Batangas, P502 million; Bulacan, P440 million; Pangasinan, P420 million; and Cebu, P410 million.
Lacson claimed "there are more corruption driven insertions in the files sent to us that I have not mentioned."
He also noted that the national budget already grew from around P800 million during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
"Nasaan iyong katumbas nung inilaki ng budget? Bakit parang ganoon pa rin ang itsura ng mga kanayunan?" he told DZMM.
"Dapat man lang may nakikita tayong multi-level na kalsada, magagandang tulay. E hindi, repair tayo na repair, lalo na iyang asphalt overlay," he added.
(Where is the corresponding budget increase? Why do countrysides still look the same. We should at least see multi-level roads, beautiful bridges. Instead, we just keep on repairing roads, specially asphalt overlays.)