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Let us see

The recent pronouncement of Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson about the presence of “pork barrel” in the 2017 national budget is alarming particularly because the Supreme Court has already ruled against such system.

Is there really “pork” in the 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA)?

The Supreme Court ruling is clear – legislators does not have the power nor are they authorized to “dip their fingers” in the implementation of programs and projects, which is the responsibility of those in the Executive Branch. If the pork barrel system happens in the implementation of government programs and projects, can any one claim the presence of pork barrel just by what are contained in the GAA?

According to Secretary Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management, there will be no pork barrel system in the Duterte Administration as the President himself gave specific orders to all heads of agencies in the Executive Branch to exercise political will in not allowing other branches of the government to meddle in the implementation of programs and projects.

The Members of the House of Representatives and the Senators were reportedly asked to identify priority needs (programs and projects). Is the system of identifying programs and projects that the government should fund and implement wrong? Is it what is referred to as “pork barrel?”

The Philippine Constitution is clear – the Executive Branch proposes the budget and the Philippine Congress authorizes it. In principle, the power of the purse belongs to Congress because without its approval, the government cannot spend public money.

In approving the Executive Branch-proposed national budget, Congress can make the changes that it deems necessary.

The identification of programs and projects is well within the power and function of Congress and the same does not constitute the pork barrel system.

The unconstitutional pork barrel system operates with lawmakers having a “say” as to the contractor that will implement a government project. The system calls for the implementing Executive agency to seek clearance from a concerned lawmaker as to the implementing contractor or a concerned lawmaker himself telling the agency to which contractor a project should be awarded.

This system is clearly disadvantageous (at the very least) to the people because it is prone to corruption.

Is there pork in the 2017 GAA? This question can only be answered when the government programs and projects are implemented using the budget approved by Congress. Change is coming? Let us see.
(Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI, Diplomate)