Lacson bares P2.4-billion House pork funds in 2019 budget bill

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
File photo shows former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, seated at center, surrounded by other legislators at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, on July 23, 2018.

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson Sr., resuming his anti-pork barrel advocacy, bared a P2.4-billion congressional “pork” ostensibly allocated for their House counterparts in the 2019 budget bill.

“It’s all there,” Lacson said in an interview on Wednesday. “Naroon sa document. Makikita naman kung saang district [The document is there. We could easily find out which congressional district I’m referring to].”

He cited, for instance, a P500-million allocation from the questionable P2.4-billion appropriation set aside for farm-to-market road projects.

“That’s just part of the P2.4-billion insertions. Nanggaling sa lima ’yan [it came from five], there were five items described as farm-to-market roads. It grew to 69, between the second reading approval and third reading approval that was transmitted to the Senate,” Lacson revealed.

Lacson confirmed that he obtained the list of projects from the budget documents transmitted to the Senate for the upcoming plenary deliberations on the 2019 budget.

He confirmed that the P500-million farm-to-market roads allocation was for a “congresswoman” he did not identify by name.

“Yes. Galing sa [it came from]  five  farm-to-market road items doon sa na-approve nila [which the House members approved]  on second reading last October 3. But nagkaroon sila ng [but there were] further amendments before they approved it on third reading. The number grew to 69, so umabot ng 500,” Lacson said.

Asked pointblank if he was directly referring to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Lacson dodged his reply, saying that, “It’s all there. Kung saang district ’yan, sino ang [from which the district is, and who is the] district representative. I cannot absolutely say na sa kanya ’yan [its hers]. Baka iba ang nag-insert doon para sa [somebody else might have inserted it for that] district. But logic dictates na kung sino, siyempre  [whoever it is] you take care of your district ’di ba? [isn’t it?]”

He confirmed there was a separate allocation of P1.9 billion but not for Pampanga, home province of Speaker Arroyo.

Lacson added: “Nasa libro, tingnan mo ang [it’s on record and you can check with the] General Appropriations Bill sa [in] Camarines Sur, ’di ko sinasabing kay [I am not saying that it was] Rep. Andaya. Basta nasa [I’m definite it’s] Camarines Sur…may [there’s] P5 million, P10 million. It’s not just one project. It involves 69 farm-to-market road projects.”

Asked if he found these allocations irregular, the senator told reporters: “Kayo na mag-judge kung masyadong malaki ba P500 million  for farm-to-market road in one legislative district [You should judge whether a P500-million allocation for  farm-to-market road projects in a single legislative district is exorbitant].”

Lacson said he expects the senators to take up the matter during the forthcoming budget deliberations. “I think we’ll talk about it before we introduce our amendments. I’m asking that it be deleted,” he added.

Asked if he was open to a compromise with House counterparts, Lacson replied: “Of course not. I’ve been very passionate about the pork barrel issue. That’s why I brought out excerpts from the Supreme Court ruling. They keep insisting na [that it’s a] simple lang [case of] interpretation…[but] post-enactment, ’yan lang ang pork sa kanila [that may be how simple on how they view it]. But I always maintain ’di ganoon kasimple ang [it’s not that simple to get a] definition [of] pork [from the] Supreme Court. Maraming mga provisions sa ruling [There are a lot of provisions in the ruling whether] in the post-enactment…pre-enactment stages, pwede pa ring pork [it could be pork].… Now if you realign funds from certain agencies to another agency or within the agency but you realign the fund to another project without consultation with the agencies na mag-implement, wouldn’t that constitute grave abuse of discretion?”

 

Image Credits: AP/Aaron Favila

Butch Fernandez

Butch Fernandez is BusinessMirror’s senior political reporter based at the Senate. He has covered Malacanang (3 presidencies), the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, local governments and defense since 1984.