P9-B ‘pork’ in 2019 budget can go to ‘urgent gov’t items - Lacson

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said Wednesday at least P9 billion in “pork” lump sums are now available as “urgent” items for various government departments or offices in the proposed 2019 P3.7-trillion budget.

Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, Sr. speakes to the media after the Budget hearing at senate building in Pasay city, December 5, 2018. (Czar Dancel) Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, Sr. speakes to the media after the Budget hearing at senate building in Pasay city, December 5, 2018. (Czar Dancel)

Lacson on Tuesday dissected the budget during in plenary debate on the proposed 2019 budget of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), saying the P9 billion represents the increase in the Assistance to Local Government Unit (ALGU) after the proposed national budget went through the House of Representatives.

“Yung P9 billion, baka pwede ma-realign natin to other items in the budget,” Lacson said during his interpellation of the budget of the DILG for the coming fiscal year. (The P9 billion could now be realigned to other items in the budget).

He pointed out the DILG did not propose the additional P9 billion for the ALGU, nor had a role in evaluating it.

During his interpellation of the general principles of the budget last week, Lacson noted the ALGU ballooned from P7 billion in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) – the version of the 2019 budget that Malacanang submitted to Congress – to P16.08 billion after it passed through the House of Representatives.

When he asked Senator Loren Legarda, chairwoman of the Senate finance committee, if the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) was consulted about the P9-billion increase, Legarda said, "I don't think so" - prompting Lacson to ask, "would it not constitute grave abuse of discretion?"

Lacson also pointed out the DILG does not have a list of municipalities or towns that will benefit from this amount.

When Senator Jose Victor Ejercito, sponsor of the DILG budget, affirmed that the DILG does not manage the amount, Lacson said they should “make available” the P9 billion in extra appropriations for realignment.

“According to DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano, the DILG has nothing to do with it,” Ejercito had said of the P9 billion.

Lacson said he would move that part of the P9 billion go to the recruitment and training of new members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), which he headed from 1999 to 2001. He said he wants to make sure they augment the budget for this purpose by some P59.838 million.

“Up to you, Mr. (Senate) President. I already showed you where we can source the funding,” he said after Ejercito said the PNP would need some P54 million for training some 12,000 PNP recruits.

Lacson also said part of the realigned funds could go to other items the PNP has requested, such as fixed-wing aircraft and maintenance of its helicopter and watercraft.