By Mario Casayuran
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson dared on Friday two top House of Representatives officials to show good faith by declining their P4.3 billion pork barrel allocations in the national budget for the coming 2019 fiscal year.
‘’If the ‘pork’ in Pampanga and Camarines Sur worth some P4.3 billion stemmed from a “misplaced gesture of generosity’’ (from their colleagues at the Lower House), the beneficiaries can show good faith by declining such amounts,’’ Lacson said.
Lacson issued the advice after House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said the allocations were a show of “misplaced generosity” to public works regional directors seeking funding for road and flood control projects.
“Since Majority Leader Andaya claims that the huge earmarks for his and (former President and Speaker Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo’s districts are a case of ‘misplaced gesture of generosity,’ maybe they can display a ‘genuine gesture of good faith’ by deleting or reducing those humongous allocations,” Lacson said on his Twitter account.
During a debate on the proposed 2019 P3.757-trillion national budget at the Senate session hall, Lacson disclosed that a congressman got at least P1.9 billion in congressional insertions while a congresswoman got P2.4 billion.
Figures from the General Appropriations Bill 2 – the House version of the national budget bill – showed P2.4 billion worth of projects are in Pampanga’s second district while P1.9 billion in projects are in Camarines Sur.
These amounts are aside from the P60 million each for the 297 House members got for his or her pet projects.
Andaya represents the first district of Camarines Sur, while Speaker Arroyo represents the second district of Pampanga.
Andaya was quoted as saying the House appropriations committee was behind the P4.3-billion “pork” in the House version of the proposed P3.7-trillion budget for 2019.
Andaya also said he did not seek added funding for road projects in his district, and even asked the House appropriations committee not to make insertions without notifying the Senate.
The committee however showed “misplaced generosity” and accommodated requests by regional directors of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for road projects in Camarines Sur and flood control projects in Pampanga, Andaya was quoted as saying.
Lacson maintained that if the appropriations committee disobeyed orders from the House leadership, the beneficiaries should return the amounts.
“Sila ang mga leaders ng House of Representatives. Kung hindi sinunod ang bilin nila, isauli nila,” he said in a radio interview. (They are the House leaders. They should return it if their House colleagues did not follow their orders.)
On the other hand, Lacson said regional directors and district engineers do not have the authority to seek funding amounting to billions of pesos.
He said district engineers could seek funding of up to P100 million, while regional directors do not course their requests to the House but to the DPWH secretary.
In turn, the DPWH secretary will forward their requests to the House or Senate.
Nevertheless, when Lacson asked DPWH Secretary Mark Villar during the agency’s budget hearing on Nov. 12 if the realignments made by the new House leadership was coordinated with them before their P51.792-billion budget was slashed, Villar said no consultation was made.
“Sabi ko, nakonsulta ba kayo rito? Hindi siya makasagot; sabi niya lang pakitanong sa congressmen kasi hindi ko alam yan,” Lacson said recalling what transpired during the committee hearing. (I said, were you consulted? He did not reply but asked that the question should be directed at congressmen because he doesn’t know about that.)