By Mario Casayuran
Pork is not bad. It is good for the people.
Sen. Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, issued the statement amid the furor over some P70 billion of ‘’pork barrel’’ allocations for members of the House of Representatives and Senate in the proposed 2019 P3.757-trillion national budget.
The passage in the Senate of the pork-laden national budget as passed by the Lower House is being slowed down by revelations by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson that two House leaders were allotted P4 billion worth of ‘’pork barrel’’ allocations while 297 congressmen were each given P60 million ‘’pork.’’
“What is bad is that lawmakers name specific contractors to undertake their projects in districts they represent,” Gordon said.
Naming specific contractors give suspicion that lawmakers are out for kickbacks, he said.
“And that is unfair to senators and congressmen. This should be proven,’’ he said.
Gordon explained that the use of ‘’pork barrel’’ allocations is good because it is one way for people to get projects for their districts through their lawmakers.
What is reprehensible is when there is suspicion of kickbacks, he said.
What is important is that contractors win the right to construct infrastructure projects through legitimate bidding processes, he added.
Gordon said it is the job of lawmakers to get projects to benefit the people.
Lacson maintained that what is desired is for lawmakers to be active in the identification of infrastructure projects in the town or barangay levels and then the regional level.
What is abhorrent, Lacson said, is the insertion by lawmakers of projects in the budgets of government departments or agencies that did not go through the local and regional levels.
Last weekend, Lacson revealed that a congressman has confided to him that a staff of a senator had asked him if it is possible for him to allow the parking of the senator’s P200 million ‘’pork barrel’ allocation and that the senator’s contractor should undertake the project. He however did not give more details on this incident as he refused to identify the congressman.
Asked by Senate reporters whether Lacson should name names, Gordon said this is the call of Lacson ‘’because he is the one who said it.’’
Or it could be Lacson’s way of intimating to a fellow legislator not to go through with the plan to park his ‘’pork barrel’’ at the congressman’s legislative district, he added.
As Blue Ribbon committee chairman, Gordon said he could not unilaterally conduct a hearing on this specific allegation because ‘’it is premature’’ and that there are no specifics.
Gordon said he does not think a senator is involved in this allegation but it could the personal handiwork of the staffer.
He explained that so many people contact legislators for their infrastructure requirements but said his staff would sidestep any request to his office from people seeking appropriations for their projects.