MANILA — Malacañang on Thursday allayed fears of the presence of pork barrel in the PHP3.757-trillion proposed national budget for next year assuring that President Rodrigo R. Duterte could easily veto the measure if it violates the Constitution.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark following claims made by Senator Panfilo Lacson that House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has allocated PHP 2.4 billion worth of projects for her district in Pampanga.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, however, denied Lacson’s claims that the allocation is pork barrel, stressing that it is itemized.
Panelo said Malacañang will ask Arroyo to explain the purpose of the allocation but assured that the President could easily exercise his power to veto.
“It behooves those who are involved in the realignment to respond to the protest of some elements of society,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“The President can always use veto power if he feels that there is a need for that,” he told the media in an interview after the briefing.
Panelo explained that the exercise of veto power is a “check and balance principle” that stops the enactment of a bill and returns it to the house of Congress where it originated.
“The power to veto is to disapprove of any bill in Congress that has been passed by both Houses which he does not approve of. If he feels it is in violation of the Constitution, he will do it,” Panelo said.
Asked if he found the allocation acceptable, Panelo said Arroyo would have to justify if the allocation is geared for the benefit of the constituents where they are assigned.
“For as long as money are spent where they should be spent. But if those money are going to be spent outside of the real purpose and then that’s corruption, and we will not allow that,” Panelo said.
Panelo, however, said he has yet to ask the President about his thoughts on the alleged pork barrel allocation in the proposed 2019 national budget.
“The President hasn’t said anything about it yet. That’s one of the things I will ask him personally this afternoon. We will ask him so that we will have a categorical answer from the President,” Panelo said.
“The basis of the President in all his actions would be one, to serve the people, number two, to protect the people,” he added.
Pork barrel or the priority development assistance fund (PDAF), a discretionary fund that allows lawmakers to allot funds for their projects, has been declared “unconstitutional” by the Supreme Court in 2013. (PNA) By Azer Parrocha