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Half-a-trillion pesos given to lawmakers’ districts — senator

A SENATOR on Thursday flagged almost half-a-trillion pesos of congressional district funds under next year’s P4.5-trillion national budget.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said the House of Representatives had allotted P620 million to P15.35 billion in infrastructure budgets for more than 200 congressional districts.

About 220 districts got more than P1 billion each, while the rest had at least P620 million each, the lawmaker said during plenary debates on the budget of the Public Works department.

The district allocations totaled P474.8 billion, Mr. Lacson said. “I am not blaming the department when it appears this way because practically, it was the congressmen who are responsible for this list,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.

Mr. Lacson also said there were 739 line items for multipurpose buildings that will get P1 million each in the national budget.

Last week, he said these were “rehashed” projects that remained unfinished even after years of being funded.

Mr. Lacson also said the Public Works department’s budget had “double appropriations” and overlapping projects.

A coastal bypass road project in Davao City was provided with separate budgets worth P1.791 billion and P4.049 billion, he said.

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, who sponsored the agency’s budget, said the separate items would fund different sections of the road.

The Supreme Court in 2013 ruled congressmen’s priority development assistance fund, more commonly known as the pork barrel, was illegal.

The lump-sum discretionary fund was given to each lawmaker to finance pet infrastructure or community projects that fell outside the scope of the national infrastructure program.

Legislators had also lobbied for a share in the budgets of crucial line agencies to expand the amount of allocations at their disposal. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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