By Mario B Casayuran
The verbal fight between Senator Panfilo M. Lacson and members of the House of Representatives over the pork barrel issue may be far from over despite moves by intermediaries to make both camps agree to a ceasefire.
In his latest bluster, Lacson said ‘if we cannot change the mindset of some congressmen’s lust for pork, maybe we can appeal to their sense of shame.’’
‘’If there‘s no shame, let’s try to figure out what to do next,’’ he added.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri was temporarily successful with his plea for a ceasefire when Lacson said Thursday that he supported such a move.
However, this did not stop Lacson from snooping into the House-approved proposed 2020 P4.1 trillion national budget anew to determine if it contained more pork.
The ceasefire was broken when some congressmen unleashed a withering verbal barrage against Lacson.
What motivated Lacson to do his usual annual snooping ala-Sherlock Holmes was the statement of Albay Representative Joey Salceda that some P100 million would be allotted to each of the 300 members of the Lower House.
Quoting his reliable sources inside the Lower House, Lacson later revealed that the House leadership planned to allot P1.5 billion for each of the 22 House deputy speakers.
And because of his revelation, Lacson said House leaders were forced to shelve this plan.
This sent House members into fits of paroxysm, particularly Congressmen Fredenil Castro, LRay Villafuerte and Michael Defensor. Defensor wanted to slice the Senate’s budget owing to their lack of constituency.
Lacson said his office received a letter request from Castro dated September 19, asking for his financial assistance in allotting in the national budget P258 million for the construction of a Dumalag (Capiz) municipal hall that would also integrate other government offices that were affected by a road-widening project.
Castro replied that it was not a lobby letter, and ‘’it’s a letter-request just like any other letters I sent to other senators.’’
‘’Lobbying is different. My letter-request shows my resolve to help my constituents. It’s not pork barrel. I am disappointed that the good Senator does not know to distinguish pork barrel from a letter-request or better still a letter-request from lobbying,’’ he added.
‘’Now it surfaced from his own revelation that it’s a letter-request and not my personal presence that was in his office,’’ he pointed out.
Castro maintained that there was a huge distinction between a letter-request and pork barrel lobbying.
‘’The good Senate President Tito (Vicente C.) Sotto (III) could not be clearer in his ANC statement of 25 September that projects given or requested by congressmen are not pork barrel’” he said.
For Villafuerte, Lacson’s ‘’fabricated’’ allegations against congressional members looked on the surface to be a “political misunderstanding but is actually a political hatchet job” meant to damage the House of Representatives as an institution.
Villafuerte said Lacson failed to be circumspect in brandishing allegations that turned out to be unsubstantiated because his personal agenda, it appears, was to make the Senate look good at the expense of the current House leadership.
Villafuerte reiterated that the alleged plan, as mentioned by Lacson and his alleged sources, never took place at any given time and venue
‘’Again it’s coming from a polluted source with the intention to malign me, Speaker Alan (Cayetano) and worse the House as an institution . The storyteller in this drama they are producing should have more credible and believable details otherwise it will backfire on them which is already happening,’’ he stressed.
Lacson’s initiative led President Duterte to cut P95 billion in “pork” from the House budget version embedded in the 2019 national budget.