MANILA – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday claimed that several lawmakers got as much as P5 billion in “pork barrel” under the 2017 General Appropriations Act.
Lacson said he learned about this during a talk with House lawmakers aimed at resolving last year's impasse on the national budget.
During the budget plenary debates, Lacson and lawmakers from the lower house hit a deadlock after the senator insisted on removing P8.3 billion the lawmakers took from the budget of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and allocated to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“The ARMM congressmen came to see me to plead their case. Inabot nga kami ng 10 p.m. sa office ko (Our meeting lasted until 10 p.m. in my office) explaining in so many words, thus – ‘buti nga daw sila, tig P1.5-B lang na projects, yung iba raw mga congressmen abot ng tig P5-B (they said they only get P1.5 billion in projects each, while others get P5 billion each),’” Lacson said.
“Change is coming? Maybe, pero (but) it's (pork allocations) changing hands from LP (Liberal Party) congressmen to those from Mindanao.”
Lacson, a staunch enemy of the pork barrel system, which used to be called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), believes that the approved budget is still laden with what he believes is an illegal form of funding.
“What I'm trying to say is, Filipinos are made to believe that PDAF is dead after the SC [Supreme Court] ruling in 2013. I am not stupid. Filipinos are not stupid. They are just resigned, I think. After all these years that I and my staff scrutinize the budget books year in and year out, I know pork when I see it,” Lacson said.
“I believe our people, especially our taxpayers, should know the real score behind all these pretenses and denials about the existence of pork.”
Lacson also claimed that some of his Senate colleagues quipped that their lower chamber counterparts apparently got bigger pork allocations than them.
“At least two of my colleagues commented in the lounge during session suspensions, ‘Sobra naman sila... tayo ngang mga senador, tig P300-M lang (they're too much... even us senators only got P300 million),’” he said.
Lacson clarified, however, that as in the past, he did not submit a list of projects for the supposed P300 million pork barrel allocation.
“Senators Tito Sotto and Kiko Pangilinan approached me on separate occasions to inform me that they too did not submit. I don't know who else among my Senate colleagues likewise did not submit their list,” he said.
“There is no saying here that those who identified their projects in the 2017 national budget, both from the Senate and the House, would get commissions from contractors.”
The House leadership has been insisting that the contested funding cannot be considered as pork barrel since no post-enactment intervention will be carried out.