Lacson agrees to a ceasefire with Congressmen

Published September 26, 2019, 5:07 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola 

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said Thursday he supports moves by Congress members for a ceasefire between him and some House of Representatives members on the controversial P33 billion budget for 22 House deputy speakers that House leaders planned to insert in the proposed 2020 P4.1 trillion national budget.

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson (Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson Official Twitter page / MANILA BULLETIN
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson
(Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson Official Twitter page / MANILA BULLETIN4

But this would not stop him from looking for pork barrel insertions in the proposed budget when told to him by his reliable sources at the Lower House or when the 2020 budget bill as approved by congressmen goes to the Senate, Lacson said.

Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri told Senate reporters that some of his colleagues asked him to open lines of communications with key House leaders and get their word to agree to a ceasefire.

Zubiri on Thursday said he spoke to House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez Wednesday night following the exchange of their colleagues about Senator Panfilo Lacson’s claim that there was an attempt to give each House deputy speaker P1.5 billion in pork barrel funds.

“We already agreed to have a ceasefire because individual members of the Senate and the House have criticized one another. It does not represent the institution. It does not represent the House of Representatives nor it does not represent the Philippine Senate,” Zubiri said, telling reporters that he met the House leader during the birthday celebration of Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.

Describing himself as a “peacemaker” in the Senate, Zubiri appealed to his colleagues to be more careful in issuing statements to avoid another impasse in the proposed national budget.

He said he also talked to Rep, Michael Defensor last Wednesday night.

Defensor had called for the deletion of the 2020 budget for the Senate.

Zubiri said Defensor agreed to a ceasefire and would not to talk about the pork barrel issue.

‘’Ang akin diyan, is to be more circumspect we have to work together to pass the budget, so I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail..resputahan na lang natin ang ibat ibang ahensiya,’’ Zubiri said. (My take is that we have to be more circumspect.) We should respect the other House.

‘’I did my job last night, I spoke [to] one of the leaders of the house, and they thankfully agreed to hold their comments, and hopefully have a ceasefire,’’ he said.

Zubiri said he will  also convince Lacson to do the same, although he maintained that they are entitled to their opinions.

“We just don’t want to escalate it into a word war wherein we will hamper our business of the day which is basically right now passing the budget and at the same time passing tax measures being pushed by the DOF (Department of Finance),” he said.

On the statement of Representatives Fredenil Castro that he (Lacson) thinks like a child, Lacson said it is better to be childish than be an adult who steals from taxpayers’ money by gorging himself with pork.

Lawmakers are known to demand 20 to 30 percent as commission from contractors undertaking their pork barrel-funded projects, he said.

Lacson said he has been on the look out for pork barrel insertions the past 20 years he has been with the Senate.

He recalled having exposed the P23 billion pork barrel appropriations of his Senate colleagues in the 2019 budget but they maintained that they were not pork.

Through his initiative, supported by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III and Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, Lacson said President Duterte deleted more than P90 billion in House members’ pork barrel appropriations in the 2019 budget.

Signing of the 2019 national budget was delayed for several months because of the Senate-Lower House feud on congressmen’s P95 billion pork barrel.

Lacson said he owes it to the Filipino people for trying to rid the country’s budget of pork barrel insertions.

He stressed that the current fight launched by some House leaders against him could not be considered a word war.

When it comes to issue, “this is not a word war,’’  he added.

On the claim of Representative Fredenil Castro that there was no P95 billion pork insertion in the 2019 budget, Lacson shot back: ‘’Where did the President get that P95 billion that he deleted?’’

Should the Lower House again insert pork barrel allocations in the proposed 2020 budget, Lacson said he has no choice but to do his job of clearing the budget of pork fat.

“So ang pag-delay ng passage of the budget measure nasa kanila, wala sa amin,’’ he added.

Lacson said any plan of the House leadership to make insertions in the budget passed on the third and final reading would be unconstitutional.

“At the very least, violation of the legislative process,’’ he added.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who earlier hit back at Defensor for threatening to cut the Senate’s budget, maintained that he will continue to defend the chamber.

“It’s up to them. I only react. I will always fight for the Senate,” Sotto said in a text message when sought to comment on the truce.

On Wednesday, Sotto said the Senate will continue to be watchful on the possible pork insertions in the annual budget.

“Of course, I have my full trust and confidence on the [House] Speaker and their Majority Leader. Even the Minority Leader, I know that they will always try to do the right thing,” Sotto said.