Senator Sonny Angara said the PHP4.1-trillion 2020 national budget will be thoroughly reviewed by each member of the Senate.
Angara, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said each senator has an individual checklist on how to evaluate an agency budget or spending item, which would ensure that the review of next year’s budget would be very detailed.
“I think the scrutiny will be tough and thorough. In my seven years in the Senate, what I have observed is that oftentimes, the hardest questions come from members of the majority,” Angara said.
“So the review actually is not just the minority’s job but of every member regardless of political affiliation,” Angara added.
Angara said the senators have a wide array of issues and topics to focus on, such as the absorptive capacity of agencies, revenues, possible pork-barrel items, aid and assistance programs, among others.
“It is this interplay of skills, which make the Senate’s review of the budget very detailed. Parang may (There is some sort of) division of labor, which results in redundancy in the vetting process,” Angara said.
The panel chair, meanwhile, noted that he would apply the four-way test wherein he will ask these key questions: Is it compliant with the laws of the land?; Is it fiscally-responsible?; Is it aligned with national and local development goals and based on plans, studies, and consultation?; and Is it what the people really want in the sense that it will improve their welfare?
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, on the other hand, vowed to scrutinize the 2020 national budget amidst reports that the spending outlay contains at least PHP35 billion in “pork” barrel.
“Whether it is pork or beef, we will find out when the budget is submitted to us. We will question it and exert every effort to weed out pork from the national budget,” Drilon said.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is expected to submit the 2020 National Expenditure Program (NEP) to Congress next week.
“The minority is prepared to scrutinize the budget to make sure that every item in the budget is in accordance with the Constitution and the Supreme Court ruling on the PDAF, and is for the best interest of the public, not the lawmakers,” Drilon said.
The pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.
Drilon said how to get rid of pork barrel is a challenge to the new leadership of the Senate, particularly the Senate Committee on Finance.
“It’s a challenge to all of us in the Senate, particularly the committee that hears the budget each year. We are confident that Senator Angara will see to it that the budget is ‘pork-free,'” Drilon said. (PNA)
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