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Lacson holding 2019 budget hostage due to personal vendetta vs. Arroyo, says Rep. Bravo

A House leader on Monday accused Senator Panfilo Lacson of holding the 2019 national budget hostage due to his "personal vendetta" against Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Anthony Bravo made such remark in response to Lacson's recent warning that Senate President Vicente Sotto III would not sign an enrolled bill on the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) if the House of Representatives sticks with its supposedly "illegal" amendments in the ratified budget bill.

"The way I look at it in my own assessment, Senator Ping Lacson is holding the budget hostage because of his personal vendetta to our Speaker [Arroyo]. He has not said anything good about the Speaker from the very start of her leadership as speaker," Bravo told reporters at a press conference.

"I don't have personal grudge or animosity with Senator Ping Lacson, but in my own analysis, I think the agenda here is clear, you don't want the Speaker to be successful and her leadership as the Speaker," he added.

Lacson, Sotto belie claim

Reached for his comments, Lacson said the issue on the pork barrel is beyond him and Arroyo.

"Rep. Bravo's opinion reflects his own attitude and character. I am a forgiving person. I have already forgiven all those who had wronged me in the past," he said in a text message to GMA News Online.

"This is about the national budget. This is about my personal anti-pork crusade and advocacy, not Speaker Arroyo or any congressman or senator," he added.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III came to Lacson's defense.

"Hindi naman (hinohostage ang budget). Buong Senado ang may problema dito hindi naman si Sen. Lacson lang. It's just that Senator Lacson has been very vocal about it and he's been very much against pork barrel," Sotto told reporters.

Lacson earlier accused Arroyo of allotting P25 million for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) funds of each of the the districts of lawmakers who elected her as Speaker in July last year after the budget bill was ratified by both houses of Congress.

Only P8 million were each allocated by Arroyo to the districts of lawmakers who did not support her election to the speakership, Lacson added.

But Bravo and House Committee on Appropriations chair Rolando Andaya have both maintained that the chamber did not do anything illegal in the budget, and only itemized the lump sum funds still included in the ratified version of the appropriations bill like the HFEP funds.

Bravo pointed out that Lacson and Arroyo have a long history of conflict against each other, dating back to the time when the latter was still the President.

For one, Lacson was alleged to have masterminded the killing of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000, for which he was charged with double murder in 2010, during Arroyo's presidency.

The senator pinned the blame to the Arroyo administration for the charges filed against him, saying this was the result of the former president's political vendetta against him for his exposés on the Jose Pidal scandal, jueteng payola, "Hello Garci" controversy, the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal, among others.

"I don't want to enter in that discussion relative to how the relationship was broken between the two, but then kung susundan natin, from the end of the term of President GMA hanggang maging Speaker siya, nakita natin kung paano siya kini-criticize [ni Lacson]," Bravo said.

Instead of holding the entire budget hostage, Bravo told his fellow senators to just let President Rodrigo Duterte to use his veto powers to remove questionable portions of the appropriations.

"Let's submit the proposed enrolled bill to the President and allow the President to exercise his discretion, to use his veto power," he said.

"Holding it hostage, making use of it is just 2 percent, and you want all people to suffer? This budget is very much needed by our people. Sino ang tatamaan dito? Ang ating mahihirap na taumbayan," he added. — with Amita Legaspi/RSJ, GMA News