By Hananeel Bordey, Joshua Lao and Leila Marie Rodriguez

Senator Panfilo Lacson saw greed behind the stalled deliberations of the 2019 national budget and suggested that lawmakers fearing cuts in their pork barrels undergo detoxification for “money addiction.”

“They need massive detox and full rehab so they can lick the more dangerous addiction to money,” Lacson said Wednesday.

The cash-based scheme introduced by the administration to institutionalize discipline in the use of the budget is expected to slash funds for new projects by P300 billion.

“Some congressmen are protesting the budget cuts for ‘their infra projects’ aka PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund),” Lacson said in a social media post.

The PDAF, also called the legislators’ pork barrel, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Since the SC decision, Lacson said House members have resorted to insertions of discretionary funds in the national budget.

Private meeting

The House, meanwhile, agreed to resume deliberations on the 2019 General Appropriations Act after wrangling a hybrid budget following a “private” meeting in Malacañang last Tuesday night among President Rodrigo Duterte, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Majority Leader Rolando Andaya and Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

House action on the P3.757-trillion budget for next year was suspended after the chamber’s appropriations panel indicated a plan to return the budget to the Executive with a demand to revert from the cash-based to the obligation-based formula which economic managers said is a source of corrupt practices.

The Palace said it would not give in to the House demand, saying it is prepared for a reenacted budget for next year.

Andaya said what was agreed on as a compromise was a hybrid of obligations-based and cash-based systems.

“We understand that cash-based budgeting from economic managers’ standpoint is a step forward but the speedy implementation in one year time, we have to balance it. Budget should be demand-based not supply-based,” Andaya said.

Why the change of heart?

Legislators and Palace officials earlier had asked members of the House Appropriations Committee, particularly its chairman, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, to explain the sudden reversal of position on the Budget Reform bill and the cash-based budgeting system.

“What gives?” Palace officials and a senator asked Nograles yesterday.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said it was Nograles who sponsored the bill. “Now, after the change in leadership, there’s a change in his mind? He now says it’s a bad measure.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson similarly wanted answers, saying the shift in the cash-based budget went smoothly until recently.

“So, why the change of heart? They were the ones who passed the Budget Reform bill when we have not even held debates but now after the change in leadership, the House (is singing a) different tune,” Lacson said.

“In the first place, why did they pass it? He (Rep. Karlo Nograles) is the chair of appropriations and he presides the deliberation of Budget Reform bill submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), why he is now singing a different tune…I myself is seeking for answers,” Lacson said.

Several senators worry over the repercussions of a reenacted budget to the program of Duterte administration, particularly the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Still, presidential spokesman Harry Roque shared the sentiment while describing the system that is being replaced as the “panacea for underspending.”

Mario Mallari and ENM

p: cmc/wjg