Lacson: ‘Gaining headway’ in ridding budget of pork

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SEN. Panfilo Lacson Sr. claimed he was gaining “some headway” in his bid to rid the national budget of billions of pesos in funds that smack of pork barrel in the P3.757-trillion 2019 budget bill.

“I would say, we have gained some headway in this regard,” Lacson said on Thursday even as he prodded President Duterte to strike out remaining pork-barrel allocations inserted by lawmakers in the annual money submitted by the Palace for Congress approval.

Lacson voiced hopes that Duterte and his economic managers will further scrutinize the final version of the budget bill as passed by Congress, and exercise his veto power to “excise the line items that clearly look and smell like pork.”

In a statement, Lacson lamented that Sen. Loren Legarda, finance committee chairman and principal sponsor of the Senate version of the budget bill, “did not actually present” what she and her House counterpart, Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., had agreed upon in the small group bicameral panel that reconciled conflicting provisions in the Senate and House versions of the budget bill. 

“She [Legarda] merely articulated to the best of her recollection what the bicameral report would be presented for ratification,” rued Lacson.

He added: “Basically, yes, the P160 million per House member plus the billion-peso insertions made by a number of their colleagues, and the P23-billion Department of Public Works and Highways insertions by a number of senators plus other insertions in different agencies have all been retained.”

Lacson expressed disappointment that peers who share his aversion to graft-tainted pork funds did not stand up to be counted. “Sadly, no matter how hard I argued last night, I only have one vote, although I have good reason to believe that some like-minded colleagues are supportive of deleting all pork insertions, particularly the excessive and unconscionable realignments made not only by our House counterpart, but by a number of our colleagues, as well.”

Still, Lacson consoled himself all was not lost. “On a positive note, all appropriations for flood control, particularly dredging, desilting and the like, have been deleted to be realigned to capital outlay for purchase of dredging machines.”

“Also, the Department of Health realignment that the Senate introduced and most of my institutional amendments have been retained like the 240-day-a-year school feeding program for wasted and nearly wasted school children, additional allowance for teachers, some appropriations cover for laws passed regarding our age-old veterans, augmentation budget requested by the Judiciary, activation of one infantry division,” the senator said, adding: “More than that, hopefully, I was able to enlighten the public because of the public discourse that transpired, for or against the outlawed pork barrel.”

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