By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson insisted on Sunday that items in the proposed national budget for 2020 that are not clearly identified where it would be used are still considered “pork”, thus, a violation of the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling.
Lacson said that pursuant to the SC ruling, all items in the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 should have specific details of allocation, including the amount.
“Iyan ang sinabi ng SC ruling. Doon na tayo pupunta sa usaping pork barrel. Sinabi ng SC ruling bawal ang post-enactment identification ng projects,” Lacson said in an interview over GMA NewsTV, referring to the SC’s ruling declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also called a “pork barrel” as unconstitutional.
On Saturday, Lacson said he would express his dissenting vote on the ratification of the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) amid allegations it is still riddled with ‘pork’ on Monday.
Lacson previously disclosed his office received from the House of Representatives through the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) a USB drive containing two files—a source file and a list file.
Among the highly questionable projects Lacson pointed to was the P3.179-billion allotted for flood control projects.
“Ang nakakamangha dito, walo sa flood control projects na iyan bakit pare-parehong tig-P60-million magkakaibang lugar? Pare-pareho ba ang mga ilog doon at gagawin? (What is puzzling isthat eight (8) of the control projects are all given P60-million each but different places? Are all the rivers there the same?)” Lacson pointed out.
Another is a P25-million supposedly for the repair, reconstruction for Nasugbu, Batangas. “Saan sa Nasugbu? Ia-identify pa lang ng kongresista saan sa Nasugbu ang ipapa-repair na kalsada. Eh di post enactment din ang identification (Where in Nasugbu? The congressman will identify the roads later on. Doing that would mean post-enactment identification),” he pointed out.
“There is also a P50-million asphalt overlay for Catbalogan City. Ano ia-asphalt overlay sa laki ng Catbalogan City? Asphalt overlay, for various roads in Quezon City, P25-million. Saan yung (where are the) various roads? Tapos concreting, rehabilitation of roads in Alaminos City, Pangasinan, P15-million, saan yan? (where is that?)”
“Ito ang mga ipo-point out kong maliwanag na pork kasi may post-identification ng project, ayon na rin sa ruling ng SC (These are the things I will point out that are clearly pork allocations because there is post-identification of projects, based on the SC ruling),” he stressed.
Lacson, who is known for his stance against pork barrel, reminded lawmakers that the definition of pork barrel under the SC ruling goes beyond post-enactment identification of projects.
“Ang sinasabi basta lump sum at walang malinaw na description ng proyekto, considered pork iyan. Saan mo iimplement iyan? Ia-identify pa lang ng kongresista ang proyekto pagkatapos i-enact ang budget measure, so maliwanagna pork (yun),(If the allocation isa lump sum and there is no cleaer description of the project, that is considered pork? Where will you implement it? If the lawmakerhas yet to identify the project after the budget measure is enacted, that is clearly pork barrel,” Lacson reiterated.
Duterte should veto anomalous items
Lacson said he would strongly recommend to President Duterte to veto such questionable items in the budget.
According to Lacson, he opted not to oppose the approval of the bicameral conference committee report on the GAB to prevent a reenacted budget like what happened in the 2019 national budget, during the meeting.
“Ayoko rin kumontra. In fairness to Sen.(Juan Edgardo “Sonny”) Angara, sabi niya, pwede na bang mag-proceed? Sabi ko hindi na ako pupunta riyan (he asked, if they can proceed. I told him will no longer attend the meeting). But please go ahead kasi kung ia-argue ko pa riyan baka mag-stalemate tayo at baka ma-delay at ma-reenact ang budget (because if I argue with them, we might end up in a stalemate and delay its approval and approve a reenacted budget). We were looking at the higher interest,” Lacson stressed.
The senator said his last hope would be the President. “Sabi ko may last hope n aide-detalye nating mabuti ito at ipapadala sa Pangulo, at irerekomenda natin na kung pwede i-line item veto, at bibigyan namin ng explanation, (I said the last hope we have is to detail each of this and send this to the President and recommend a line item veto, and we will provide an explanation),” he said.
“Kung pakinggan ng Pangulo, maraming salamat at umaasa ako dahil nagawa niya ito noong 2019. At kung sa tingin ng Malacanang nararapat isama iyan, eh di fine, ok lang kasi prerogative ng Pangulo iyan (If the President will listen, thank you and I hope so, because he did it in the 2019 budget. But if Malacanang thinks it is necessary to include it, then fine, it’s okay, because that’s the President’s prerogative),” he said.
“Bahala na ang Pangulo kung paniniwalaan an gaming explanation na ito ay pork at kailangan matanggal. Ganyan din ang sinasabi ni SGMA (former House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) and sinabi ni Rep. (Roland) Andaya, ganyan din ang sinabi ng ilang kongresista sina Fredenil Castro. Kung sino-sino na pork-free, walang lump sum at walang abuso (It’s up to the Prseident if he will believe our explanation that this is pork and should be removed. SGMA and Rep. Andaya and other House members like Fredenil Castro said the same thing before, so many of them are saying it is pork-free, there were no lump sum, no abuses),”
“Pero sa pag aaral ng Malacanang at pag-aaral namin, lumalabas na pork talaga iyan, kasi na-veto ng Pangulo. So bayaan natin ang Pangulo, kanya-kanyang pananaw at kanya-kanyang argument (but based on Malacanang’s study and our study, it really appears to be ‘pork’, precisely it was vetoed by the President. So let’s allow the President to decide, we all have our own views and argument),” Lacson said.