THE independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives called for a congressional inquiry Tuesday into claims by former senator Panfilo Lacson that at least P424 billion in lump-sum or discretionary funds were allocated to 11 major line agencies in the P2.6 trillion national budget for 2015.
Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, the leader of the bloc, said Congress must go down to the nitty-gritty of the 2015 budget in the light of Lacson’s allegations that pork was inserted in this year’s spending plan.
“We call on the House leadership to look into the claim of Sen. Lacson on the huge discretionary funds for sake of regularity and transparency,” Romualdez said.
The Supreme Court declared pork barrel to be unconstitutional in 2013.
Lacson earlier disclosed that based on his team’s studies, some lawmakers got more pork barrel through re-alignment and insertions.
But Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Lacson’s claims were baseless and unfounded, and said the national budget this year complies with the Constitution.
“Everything is in order and complies with the SC decision regarding national budget,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte said that Congress is now gearing up for the deliberations of the Palace’s proposed P3-trillion national budget for 2016.
“We have deliberated thoroughly on the 2015 national budget. There was no any pork insertion made in it,” Belmonte said. “We have to move on to the 2016 budget.”
Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of Romualdez’s bloc, pointed out that pork barrel funds should no longer exist in the national budget after the SC ruling declaring the so-called graft-ridden Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), a lump-sum budgetary item, unconstitutional.
“Transparency should always be the main consideration especially with the involvement of huge amounts of public funds,” De la Cruz said.
Lacson earlier said the P424 billion in lump-sum appropriations could be higher because his team had yet to finish its review of the budget while Senator Sergio Osmeña III backed Lacson’s claim.
Pork barrel projects were known to be sources of hefty kickbacks for lawmakers.