Will there be ‘pork barrel’ under the Duterte administration?
Yes, there will be, if certain lawmakers have their way.
Neophyte lawmakers have submitted to the House committee on appropriations their list of choice projects worth P80 million each for funding in the 2017 national budget, an indication that the supposed pork barrel system may continue in the present administration.
A lawmaker who refused not be named said on Monday that each congressman is entitled to P30 million in soft projects such as hospitalization, scholarships, trainings and livelihood and another P50
million hard projects or infrastructure—for a combined total of P80 million.
Each congressman was entitled to 70 million in ‘pork barrel’ funds under the Aquino administration.
“Neophyte lawmakers were given until June 30 to submit the list of their soft projects and July 1 for their hard projects,” the lawmaker-source said.
A check with the House committee on appropriations confirmed that neophyte lawmakers had already submitted the list of their proposed projects to have it factored in to the 2017 national budget that is being prepared by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and for deliberations of Congress starting August.
But a congressional staff who refused to be named denied it was the House appropriations panel which asked the neophyte lawmakers to submit the list of their projects for various legislative districts in the countryside.
“We really don’t know who informed them [neophyte lawmakers] to submit such documents [list of projects]. We thought that this batch of newbies are just enterprising and creative,” the congressional staff said.
For soft projects, a lawmaker customarily has discretion on the amount where to allocate the P30 million in the following agencies, such as Technical Education and Skills Development Authority,
Commission on Higher Education, State Universities and Colleges, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Health.
For hard projects, the lawmaker-source said they were asked to submit the names of infrastructure projects like roads to be submitted that may likely be implemented by the departments of Public Works and Highways and Education.
But the lawmaker-source said they were told that such a practice would not mean a return to the pork barrel system as Congress is merely exercising its power of the purse and so these entitlements are carried out.
“We were told that the act of submitting the list of projects should not be treated as a return to the pork barrel system because the identification process is being done even before the national budget for next year is approved,” the lawmaker-source said.
He also said that the incoming 17th Congress will not be violating the Supreme Court ruling on lump sum Priority Development Assistance Fund with these.
The SC order prohibited only the post-enactment intervention of members of Congress in the national budget, the lawmaker-source stressed. “What we are doing now is preenactment activity that is within the power of lawmakers.”
Even before President Rodrigo Duterte assumed his post last June 30, the lawmaker said, neophyte lawmakers had already been asked to submit the names of projects through a two-page form that was relayed to them during the orientation at the House of Representatives.
“Despite the advertisement by congressional leaders in the past that pork barrel system has been abolished, we are asked to submit the list of projects for inclusion to the 2017 NEP (National Expenditures Program). Still we continue to enjoy some entitlement to funds,” the lawmaker-source said.
“Well, we really need these for our constituents for as long that projects are identified and not lump sum,” the lawmaker added.