Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno ensured on Tuesday, August 15, that no part of the proposed P3.76-trillion national budget will be allocated to pork finances.
In a report from the Inquirer, the budget chief subdued the public’s fear that House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo might distribute pork funding to lawmakers in exchange for their loyalty.
The Supreme Court struck down the pork barrel programs primarily the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Countrywide Development Fund. In 2013, the judicial arm of the government declared these pork barrel programs unconstitutional.
Diokno said at the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum that the National Expenditure Program for next year will adhere to the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I’m consistent here. Our budget is consistent with the Supreme Court decision,” he added.
Pork barrel funds, according to the Supreme Court, violated the principle of separation of powers between the legislative and the executive department. Such funds permit lawmakers to come up with projects after the national budget is approved.
Diokno assured that this time it would be different. Lawmakers now had to come up with projects before a national budget is passed. He also reiterated that it is different from the lump-sum allocations.
The budget chief emphasized that the lawmakers now had to convince the department that the amount they request is rational. He said that one can get as much as P200-million “depending on whether you are hardworking and you are able to convince the respective department to justify” the request for funding for their legislative district.
Diokno also responded to the criticisms hurled at President Rodrigo Duterte. Many of the leader’s critics believed that pork barrel might return following Arroyo’s speakership wrestle with Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.
“President Duterte is not [Arroyo]. He is very strong in [his] anti-corruption [drive],” Diokno said.
He also insisted that the budget will not be in any way similar to pork barrel.
“These are projects that are supposed to benefit residents of those districts. They are not pork barrel. Call it [by] any other name, but not pork barrel,” he maintained.
Diokno promised that the National Expenditure Program will abide by the constitution. He also assured that he will not “do what they did.”
“Coming to an election year,” he said, “that speaks volume of what we can do with the money. But I tell you we will not do what they did. We will stick by the rules.”