Lacson under fire from congressmen over pork barrel raps

Published September 25, 2019, 8:45 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Ben Rosario

Congressmen cross party lines on Wednesday to demand an apology from Sen. Panfilo Lacson for publicly accusing the House of Representatives of inserting pork barrel allocations in the 2020 General Appropriations Bill that was recently passed by the Lower House.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Panfilo Lacson
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

During a plenary debate, AnakKalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor went farther as he asked Senate President Vicente Sotto III and the Upper Chamber’s leadership to apologize for Lacson’s behavior toward a co-equal legislative branch.

“Apology should not come from Senator Lacson alone. It should come from the leadership for failing to discipline Ping,” said Defensor.

Rising on a matter of personal and collective privilege, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro lamented that Lacson came out publicly to accuse the Lower House leadership of inserting huge pork barrel allocations to finance public works projects in their respective congressional districts.

Minority Leader and Manila Rep. BienvenidoAbante rose to interpellate Castro but joined the former majority leader in demanding for Lacson’s apology.

“In order to confirm that he is indeed a soldier and gentleman, perhaps Senator Lacson could be sensible enough to realize what he has done and that he has damaged this institution by extending a sincere apology to this institution and to all the members of this House of Representatives,” said Castro.

The senior administration lawmaker noted that Lacson hurled his accusation against the Lower House although “he has not yet seen a single line of the General Appropriations Act.”

Castro chided Lacson for claiming that each of the deputy speakers of the Lower House were to received P1.5 billion from the national budget.

Lacson said the Lower House leadership no longer pursued the P1.5 billion budget for the 22 deputy speakers after those opposed to the idea stopped its move.

The senator said that there was an attempt to insert the additional funding during a thwarted attempt by Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. ElrayVillafuerte to pull out the budget measure at the height of the budget hearings then being conducted by the Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab.

It was recalled that Villafuerte, together with other House officials of the 17th Congress, were accused by then Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. of being involved in the scandalous “pork parking” controversy that prevented the early passage of the 2019 General Appropriations Act.

Andaya’s exposé of the pork parking anomaly stopped certain House leaders then from inserting billions of pesos of allocation to finance infrastructure projects in their congressional district.

It was revealed then that one senior solon from Region I had parked pork barrel funds to the tune of P1.2 billion, while another administration lawmaker was able to get an allocation of P1.4 billion for his congressional district in Batangas.

Castro said Lacson “is thinking like a child” when he aired his accusations against the Lower House even before scrutinizing the contents of the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020.

“If you say that he is thinking like a child, would it be appropriate to say that Senator Lacson is a picture of immaturity and irresponsibility?” asked Abante.

After getting an affirmative answer from Castro, Abante declared he is joining the Lower House demand for an apology from the senator.