By Mario Casayuran
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said Wednesday that his “vendetta” is against the insatiably greedy politicians, especially those who lust after pork barrel funds.
Lacson issued this statement after some House of Representatives members continue to accuse him of “vendetta” in denouncing the graft-prone pork barrel system estimated to be in the tens of billions of pesos embedded in the proposed 2019 P3.757 trillion national budget.
The battle over the pork barrel appropriations between the Senate and the House of Representatives has forced the Duterte administration to operate under a re-enacted 2018 national budget.
Senate President Vicente S. Sotto said the only time he would sign an enrolled budget bill for eventual transmission to and approval by Malacanang is for the Lower House to send to him an untouched ratified copy of the bicameral conference committee report.
‘’To the congressmen who continue to claim vendetta is my motive in attacking the pork in the 2019 budget, you are right. But my vendetta is against the insatiably greedy politicians,” Lacson said.
Some congressmen had claimed that Lacson could still be harboring hard feelings against former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal for forcing him to go into hiding abroad to evade issues related to the killing of publicist Bobby Dacer.
But Lacson had said he has since forgiven Mrs. Arroyo.
In the latest tiff on the budget, Lacson said the legislative districts of Mrs. Arroyo and another House official had more than P4 billion in pork barrel allocations.
He reiterated his actions against pork barrel in the 2019 budget are not about any individual congressman or senator, but about his crusade against the pork barrel system and the national budget, which is the lifeblood of the country.
Lacson added he would criticize those who go against his advocacy of keeping the budget free of pork, which had been outlawed by the Supreme Court way back in 2013 but is still resurrected in different forms.
Earlier, Lacson bared post-ratification manipulations by the House leadership on the budget bill after it was ratified last Feb. 8.
He cited figures from the Senate’s Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) which showed a net increase of P95.1 billion in the House of Representatives’ realignments. This includes the slashing of P72.319 billion from the Department of Public Works and Highways’ Major Final Output (MFO) 1 and 2.
Also, the House rearranged or realigned P79.7 billion from several congressional districts to the other districts, and parked P70 billion in the DPWH central office after removing them from 87 District Engineering Offices (DEOs).
“Parking the P70 billion in the DPWH’s central office was meant to make it difficult for people – including myself – to trace where it will go. You could call it a veiled effort to conceal large ‘pork insertions’ of some congressmen,” Lacson pointed out.
Lacson also disclosed the post-ratification maneuvering of funds in the budget by the House leadership – a violation of the 1987 Constitution’s Art. VI, Sec. 2, Paragraph 2: “Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed.”
The post-ratification tweaks by the House leadership included the Department of Health’s Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) funds – where Speaker Arroyo’s allies got P25 million each while those who did not vote for her got just P8 million each.
Lacson said he got his information from House members who noticed the discrepancy.
Worse, the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” legacy program was not spared, as the House slashed P72.319 billion from the DPWH’s Major Final Output (MFO) 1 and 2.
The DPWH projects affected by the slashing include those had already been planned and vetted for months, or even years.