By Azer Parrocha/Philippine News Agency
MANILA — The PHP95.3 billion vetoed items of appropriations under the PHP3.8-trillion national budget for this year which has been signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday are “unconstitutional”, Malacañang said.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo was referring to, among others, the PHP75 billion last-minute insertions made by the House of Representatives to the final version of the budget bill approved by the bicameral conference committee.
“Those are the so-called insertions/riders. They are not part of the program by the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), hence it violates the Constitution,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Citing the Supreme Court decision in 2013, he said “unprogrammed” funds violates the Constitution.
It may be recalled that the country’s highest court declared as unconstitutional the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
“They are in violation of the Constitution, whether you call it pork or beef or meat, or fish… those provisions are violative of the basic charter,”
Panelo said he would have to wait for the President’s word after he “subjected certain provisions to conditional implementation in order to ensure conformity with existing laws, rules and regulations.”
Among the provisions he subjected to conditional implementation are the allowance and benefits of teachers and creation of teaching positions, construction of evacuation centers, funding for foreign-assisted projects, revolving fund, and lump-sum appropriations for capital outlays, as well as financial assistance to local government units and funding requirements of our foreign service, among others.
The Palace spokesperson, meanwhile, maintained that the President’s decision to veto provisions in the 2019 budget is a show of his strong stand against any form of corruption.
“The message is always; you follow the Constitution. Any deviation from the Constitution will not be approved by the President or will not be tolerated,” Panelo said.
Although a ceremonial signing of the 2019 budget was included in the tentative schedule released by Palace, Panelo said it was canceled since the President was busy with his work including holding the first meeting with members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in Malacañang.
“Ang daming—sunud-sunod iyong ano kagabi eh. Ang dami siyang appointments. Wala nang oras (He had a jam-packed schedule last night. He had a lot of appointment. We lacked time),” Panelo said.