Senator Panfilo Lacson bared Wednesday a list of insertions allegedly made by a member of the House of Representatives which he claimed was an example of ‘pork barrel.’
Lacson did not identify the lawmaker but the projects were in Floridablanca, Lubao, Porac, and Guagua, all within the second district of Pampanga which is represented by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“‘Yan ang mga insertions na ginawa. I do not know who is from Lubao, Mr. President,” he said during the budget deliberations on the proposed 2019 budget.
He said there was an insertion for a P500-million project for farm to market roads alone just in one district.
“Will you help me delete these insertions,” he added. He said he saw these insertions in the documents and General Appropriations Bill from the House submitted to the Senate finance committee.
“My point is there is grave abuse of discretion tapos sasabihin nila walang pork,” Lacson said.
“May nakita na kami. May congressman na nagkaroon ng additional P1.5 billion. May isang congressman o sabihin nating congresswoman na nagkaroon ng P1.6 billion additional. So puwede ba pabayaan namin nang ganoon yan?” Lacson told reporters Monday night.
In his interpellation Wednesday, Lacson said when the House approved the proposed bill on second reading last October 3, the congressman had P360.4 million insertions while the congresswoman had P726.710 million. But before the approval on third reading, the congressman had an additional P1.545 billion while the congresswoman got an additional P1.698109 billion.
“Ang total nila under the General Appropriations Bill that we received as transmitted: the congressman has P1.9 billion, the congresswoman has P2.424 billion. Now my question is, is this pork or not? Is that pork or pork?” he said.
Senator Loren Legarda, finance committee chairperson, initially defended the right of lawmakers to transfer, remove, amend, and augment funds as part of the Congress’ power of the purse.
“Hindi ko po nilalagyan ng malisya. Naiintindihan ko ‘yung proseso, I’m trying to be very understanding. Ito ay Congress power of the purse, may karapatan silang maglipat, magtanggal, magdagdag ayon sa tingin nila ay karapat-dapat sa ahensiya,” she said.
But when Lacson told her that the additional funds were not for the agencies but for the districts of the lawmakers, Legarda asked the former who these were.
“Sino ‘yan? Ituro mo sa akin kasi kawawa naman ‘yung probinsiya ko tatlong dekadang napabayaan, kukuha ako ‘dun ng pang-FMR (farm to market roads) namin,” she said.
Farm to market road projects
In an interview during the break, Lacson said there were 69 farm to market road projects under the congresswoman.
Asked if he was talking about Arroyo, the senator said he cannot absolutely say but the insertions were in her district.
“It’s all there. Kung saang district ‘yan, sino ang district representative. I cannot absolutely say na sa kanya ‘yan. Baka iba ang nag-insert doon para sa district na ‘yan. But logic dictates na kung sino, siyempre you take care of your district, ‘di ba?” he said.
He said the other insertions were in Camarines Sur.
“Nasa libro, tingnan mo ang GAB (General Appropriations Bill). Sa Camarines Sur. Di ko sinasabing kay (House Majority Leader) Rep. (Rolando) Andaya. Basta nasa Camarines Sur,” said Lacson.
On whether the agencies were consulted before the projects were inserted in the budget bill, he said: “We’ll find out, kaya ang line of questioning, may consultation ba with the agencies na mag-implement? Kaya ba i-absorb ng agencies na mag-implement ang chosen projects?”
Asked how will he prove the insertions, Lacson said he will let the public judge.
“Kayo na mag-judge kung pork ‘yan o hindi. That’s why I kept asking the chair of the finance committee, is it pork or is it not pork? ‘Di rin masagot eh. Because in her heart of hearts, alam niyang pork ‘yan, ayaw niya lang sagutin,” he said.
He said the lawmakers can always deny but his interpretation is the insertions are ‘pork’ based on the Supreme Court decision.
“They can deny all they can but kita naman nating lahat. Kayo na magsabi kung pork ‘yan o hindi pork. I leave it up to you. Ako interpretation ko pork, but that’s me. That’s why I kept asking the chair kung pork ba and she refused to answer,” he said.
He said his office is still scrutinizing the proposed budget and looking for other pork allocations.
“Nothing is useless as long as I bring it out. At least na-scrutinize natin. It’s up to my colleagues, it’s up to you people to conclude. Tinutulungan ko kayo to be enlightened. If they refuse to be enlightened that’s not my problem,” he said.
GMA News Online has sought the reaction of House leaders but has yet to receive their replies as of posting time. — RSJ, GMA News