MANILA - Is the Senate partly to blame for the delay in the budget of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games?
For Senator Panfilo Lacson, nothing could be further from the truth - saying it was congressmen who tried to insert P75 billion in pork barrel projects into the budget even after the bicameral report ratification.
"That's so far from the truth. Everyone knows by now it created a lot of controversy then during the speakership of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, even after both houses ratified the bicam report, meaning 'yun ang final version, they still inserted 75 billion pesos," he said in an ANC Headstart interview.
"That we could not agree to, so what we did is to again scrutinize and find out which of these P75 billion worth of projects ang napasok after the post-bicam ratification," he added.
Lacson, chairperson of the Senate accounts committee, said the congressional insertions are considered unconstitutional since there should be no more amendments after the 3rd and final reading of the proposed budget.
"They should not blame us, sila 'yung reason for the delay," he said.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and 1PACMAN Party List rep. Mikee Romero earlier blamed Sen. Franklin Drilon for the budget delay, saying the senator proposed cutting funds for the SEA Games by about a third, and to move it under the country's sports body.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, however, said the House submitted the proposed national budget to the Senate about two months later than the target date.
“Una, nagpalit sila ng leadership. Baka nakakalimutan nila na nagpalit din sila ng mga chairmanship. Baka nakakalimutan nila na imbes na i-submit sa amin by October 1 yung budget, sinubmit nila nung November 24. Ano ang magagawa namin in less than a month?” the Senate President told reporters.
He also said that after the proposed national budget was ratified, the House made realignments.
“May ginalaw sila. Baka nakakalimutan nila, hindi lang P75 billion ang nakita namin, P95 billion ang nakita ng Presidente na i-veto. So paanong hindi sila ang may kasalanan ng delay?” Sotto said.
(They changed something. They may have forgotten that we did not only see a change worth P75 billion but also P95 billion, which the President saw and vetoed.)
He stressed that neither the Senate nor Drilon can be blamed for the delay in the 2019 budget.
“Medyo nasaktan lang sila doon sa pintas siguro ni Sen. Drilon tungkol siguro du’n sa cauldron. Siguro ganun lang ‘yun kaya parang binabalikan nila si Sen. Drilon. Pero in fairness, it was the idea of Sen. Drilon kaya natapos yung impasse nung 2019 budget,” Sotto said.
(They may have been hurt by Sen. Drilon's statements against the cauldron. That may be, because they keep getting at Sen. Drilon. But, in fairness, it was Sen. Drilon behind the end of the 2019 budget impasse.)
Drilon earlier questioned the P50 million-worth cauldron that will bear the symbolic Southeast Asian Games flame to be lit during the opening ceremonies.
Meanwhile, Lacson also questioned the transfer of a billion pesos in government funds from the Philippine Sports Commission to o private foundation PHISGOC, headed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
"That is questionable," Lacson said, adding that charges have been filed against foundations being used as repositories of public funds.
He cited the case of alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, who is accused of creating private foundations that were used as "parking lots of public funds from the expenditure program of government."
Cayetano earlier told lawmakers PHISGOC was in consultation with state auditors "every step of the way" during the SEA Games preparations.
A Senate investigation on the SEA Games controversy could be tackled by either the Senate Blue Ribbon committee headed by Sen. Richard Gordon or the Senate committee on sports headed by Sen. Bong Go.