Malacañang on Tuesday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s veto of multibillion-peso budget insertions made by Congress hinged on the provisions’ unconstitutionality.
“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,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a media briefing.
Duterte on Monday finally signed the ₱3.757-trillion national budget for 2019, but vetoed ₱95.3 billion worth of items. It ended months-long delay which forced the government to operate based on the 2018 budget resulting in delayed projects that impacted growth targets.
Panelo said the vetoed items included the ₱75 billion worth of programs and projects under the DPWH itemized by the House of Representatives after Congress ratified the bicameral conference committee report.
Senators have denounced the amount as pork barrel, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2013 in the wake of a multibillion-peso scam over fund misuse.
“The decision of the Supreme Court was that if they are unprogrammed then it violates the Constitution… whether you call it pork, or beef, or meat, or fish,” Panelo said.
He did not confirm nor deny if the remaining ₱20 billion in the vetoed amount included insertions made by the Senate. Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier said Senate finance committee chair Loren Legarda may have inserted ₱23 to ₱25 billion to fund certain projects for Antique province.
Malacañang has yet to release the President’s veto message, which explains why he rejected a number of provisions.
House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Rolando Andaya Jr., who first introduced the insertions in December 2018, said he will wait for the veto message to be released. He added the President might have placed the vetoed amount under “conditional implementation” or might have set requisites for the appropriations to be released.
Panelo, however, said the rejection was final and not conditional.