Legislators dispute items in 2021 budget

LAWMAKERS from both the Senate and House of Representatives continued to raise questions on the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year, which was ratified by Congress on Wednesday and now up for the President’s review and approval.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson again raised his concerns over the Department of Public Works and Highways’s (DPWH) allocation, the second highest among agencies at P694.82 billion.

The net increase of P28.3B on top of the “juggled funds” within the DPWH budget “could only indicate massive realignments and insertions introduced by the legislators,” he said in a text message to reporters Thursday.

The senator earlier alleged that allies of House Speaker Lord Alan Q. Velasco received higher infrastructure funds for their congressional districts under the proposed budget.

“Even the multi-purpose buildings that I had repeatedly questioned in the committee hearings all the way to plenary gained more funds instead of being reduced, in spite of the obvious waste of funds due to the failure of the DPWH to implement them,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Makabayan bloc in the House said the P19-billion proposed funding of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) would only lead to more human rights violations.

The bloc composed of six party-list representatives had been persistent in asking for the defunding of the NTF-ELCAC.

Under the ratified budget, the Office of the President will get P4.5 billion for its confidential and intelligence funds.

Malacañang, meanwhile, assured that the bill will be thoroughly reviewed and signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on time to avoid a reenacted budget next year.

“What we will assure is that the President will be swift in reviewing the budget to see if there are specific line items that he will veto,” Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, speaking in mixed English and Filipino, said in a briefing Thursday.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Palace has yet to receive the official copy of the ratified 2021 National Expenditure Program. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Gillian M. Cortez

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