Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, on Friday said the version of the PHP4.1-trillion 2020 budget approved by the bicameral conference committee and ratified by both Houses of Congress contains no pork and no parked funds.
Ungab said the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) is in compliance with the “express instructions” of President Rodrigo Duterte as it would be a powerful tool to help deliver his goal of a “safe and comfortable life for all.”
Ungab said the budget process was undertaken with “utmost transparency.”
“It represents the clear 2020 vision of the President and his economic strategy anchored on increased spending in infrastructure and human capital development. The projects outlined under the 2020 budget will help sustain our status as one of Asia’s best-performing economies,” he said.
“Attempts to label the 2020 budget pork-ridden by constantly redefining ‘pork’ is unfair and misleading. The Supreme Court has already declared pork barrel funds as unconstitutional and clearly defined what constitutes pork. The 2020 budget is pork-free,” he added.
The lawmaker noted that all changes made in the GAB were aligned with the President’s priorities and were based on the recommendations of the Cabinet Departments and other government agencies.
“Both houses ratified the budget bill. The representatives of both the Senate and House agreed on the amendments to, and final version of, the 2020 GAB at the bicameral conference committee,” he said.
On Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said there is no room for unconstitutional provisions in the proposed 2020 national budget.
Panelo made this assurance following concerns raised by Senator Panfilo Lacson that members of the House of Representatives allegedly made last-minute insertions prior to the signing of the budget by the bicameral conference committee.
“Provisions in the budget that run counter to the Constitution will be vetoed by the President, there is no change in that policy,” Panelo said in a statement.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, like Panelo, earlier said the President will not hesitate to use his veto powers as he did when he vetoed the 2019 national budget.
The House approved House Bill No. 4228, or the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2020, on Sept. 20 while the Senate passed its version on Nov. 27.
Duterte earlier said he wanted to avoid a repeat of the nearly four-month delay in 2019 budget enactment due to an impasse between the House and Senate on realignments made by some House members.
In his veto message on the 2019 budget, Duterte said he would “not tolerate any attempts to circumvent the Constitution”, and vetoed PHP95.3 billion items of appropriations under the budget because they were “not within programmed priorities”.