Anti-pork barrel Sen. Panfilo Lacson, lamenting what he described as the latest congressional innovations to disguise “pork barrel” allocations in the P4.1-trillion 2020 budget bill, suggested that lawmakers post their proposed budget allocations online for public consumption.
“Instead of whispering proposed ‘amendments’ to the 2020 national budget, or scrawl them on napkins, why not post them online?,” Lacson said on Tuesday.
The senator, in issuing the challenge, suggested that “no less than such a show of transparency would dispel suspicions that the amendments are stained with pork.”
“We should make everything public,” Lacson said, adding, “That includes all amendments we submit, whether institutional or individual. We have our own web sites, we should use them for this purpose, as I did for the 2019 budget.”
In a radio interview, the senator said he, himself, is ready to post online his proposed amendments in the 2020 budget bill, as he did in the 2019 budget.
For the 2019 budget, Lacson recalled he posted online his proposed amendments, all of which are institutional, “meaning these pertain to programs and projects that have undergone planning and vetting, and are based on requests from the implementing agencies concerned.”
According to Lacson, such institutional amendments are proposed by lawmakers who find merit in them after vetting with the relevant agencies.
In contrast, he added that individual amendments pertain to projects based mainly on lawmakers’ intervention and are considered legislators’ pet projects.
Lacson noted that “in most cases, these do not involve consultations with the implementing agencies concerned, nor are they part of the local development plans of the local government units.”
The senator asserted that such programs can be considered pork barrel, based on the 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court, that deems as unconstitutional projects that are whimsical and arbitrary.
He recalled that the 2013 Supreme Court ruling declaring pork barrel as unconstitutional covers “all informal practices of similar import and effect, which the Court similarly deems to be acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”
Lacson suggested that since most, if not all lawmakers, have their own web sites, “why not post their [budget bill] amendments there, for the public to scrutinize?”
Lacson lamented that in the past years, some lawmakers submit their amendments to their respective finance or appropriations chairmans without having them go through floor deliberations.
“Instead of having their amendments undergo scrutiny in floor deliberations, some lawmakers propose their amendments verbally, or even scribble them on napkins.”
Pushing for transparency in crafting of the national budget, Lacson reminded that national debt that now stands at more than P7.9 trillion. “The national budget involves the people’s money,” he said.
“It should benefit the people and not a few senators or congressmen or even government officials who implement projects. And the budget is funded by our taxes, as well as borrowings if our tax collections fall short,” he added.