By Mario Casayuran
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson revealed that the ‘’bloated’’ right of way (ROW) appropriation amounting to P52 billion and another P86 billion at the proposed 2018 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is graft-laden.
“Clearly the pattern shows that the bloated budget for ROWs is the biggest source of insertions and realignments being made by legislators,’’ Lacson said after dissecting the proposed 2018 P643 billion budget of the government’s biggest infrastructure agency.
When asked whether the bloated ROW appropriations could be considered ‘’pork barrel,” Lacson categorically replied ‘’yes.’’
“It is also one obvious culprit of the massive underspending committed by the department. As pointed out by Senator (Cynthia A.) Villar, it is nonsense to fund ROWs simultaneously with the road construction itself, since the former should be settled first as in the case of the P86 billion,’’ he said.
Lacson said he intends to cut the P86 billion since the description is road projects including ROW, unlike the P51 billion which is appropriated solely for ROWs.
“So there is no reason why they (DPWH) can’t determine how much of the P86 billion is for the same item,’’ he added.
“Right now, I’m asking my staff to coordinate with the DPWH to identify and itemize the projects that involve ROW. Hindi puwede estimate o hula-hula (Estimate or guess is not allowed),’’ he said.
“It’s time we put our foot down on this shenanigan which robs our taxpayers their hard-earned money,’’ he added.
During the plenary debate the other day on the proposed DPWH budget for the next fiscal year, Lacson also pointed out other appropriations for infrastructure projects that are clearly questionable.
The lawmaker from Cavite has been going hammer and thongs after pork barrel insertions in annual budgets submitted to Congress.