2020 budget hurdles bicam as Lacson questions alleged 'insertions'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2019 11:00 AM | Updated as of Dec 11 2019 04:16 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) -- The 2020 national budget worth P4.1 trillion moved closer to becoming a law after a bicameral conference of senators and congressmen approved it on Wednesday.

The bicameral conference reconciled the House and Senate versions of the budget bill. Both chambers need to pass the bicameral report before President Rodrigo Duterte can sign it. 

Debates over alleged "insertions" in the 2019 budget delayed its passage and dragged economic growth momentum in the first 6 months of the year.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson skipped the signing of the bicameral report on Wednesday due to alleged "last minute insertions" which are allegedly detailed in a USB drive that his office received on Tuesday from the House of Representatives.

Lacson 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." 

The senator said he would inform the budget department and Duterte about the alleged anomaly.

"I hope the President will again exercise his political will in vetoing line items that will obviously waste people's tax money," he said. 

"It is revolting to note that legislators keep on dipping their dirty fingers on our national budget in spite of pending cases involving the same issue," he said. 

The Senate and the House will go on break on Dec. 20.

-- Report from Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News