Lac­son’s an­tipork cru­sade to spare no one

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Leila B. Salaver­ria @LeilasINQ —WITH RE­PORTS FROM MAR­LON RAMOS AND DJ YAP

Deny­ing that he’s sin­gling out Speaker Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal-Ar­royo, Sen. Ping Lac­son says he will spare no one in his ef­fort to re­move pork from the pro­posed na­tional bud­get.

Sen. Ping Lac­son on Satur­day said he would spare no one in his plan to re­move or re­duce what he be­lieved were pork bar­rel in­ser­tions in the pro­posed P3.757-tril­lion na­tional bud­get for 2019, as he de­nied sin­gling out Speaker Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal-Ar­royo.

Lac­son ear­lier dis­closed that af­ter last-minute re­vi­sions of the na­tional ex­pen­di­ture bill in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Ar­royo’s Pam­panga district stood to get P2.4 bil­lion worth of projects and P1.9 bil­lion went to House Ma­jor­ity Leader Rolando An­daya Jr.’s Ca­marines Sur district.

The se­na­tor said the funds for se­lect dis­tricts were in­serted af­ter the re­align­ment of the orig­i­nal bud­get sub­mit­ted by the Depart­ment of Bud­get and Man­age­ment.

‘Blessed few’

“I’ll say most of them, or all of (the leg­is­la­tors) got P60 mil­lion. But some blessed few got more,” Lac­son said.

But An­daya de­fended the amounts on Fri­day, say­ing that 99 rep­re­sen­ta­tives got al­lot­ments even big­ger than the P2.4 bil­lion worth of projects that went to the se­cond district of Pam­panga, which Ar­royo has been rep­re­sent­ing since 2010.

Though he ad­mit­ted last week that Ar­royo had di­rected the al­lot­ment of at least P60 mil­lion worth of gov­ern­ment projects for each House mem­ber, An­daya in­sisted that the al­lo­ca­tions were all item­ized and not pork bar­rel funds—lump­sum ap­pro­pri­a­tions which the Supreme Court de­clared un­con­sti­tu­tional in 2013.

An­daya also claimed that all se­na­tors, ex­clud­ing Lac­son, had re­quested the al­lo­ca­tion of funds for cer­tain dis­tricts.

On Satur­day, the Se­nate’s fiercest op­po­nent of pork bar­rel said he would con­tinue to seek the dele­tion or re­duc­tion of pork al­lo­ca­tions.

“Even those in­serted by my own col­leagues, if these can­not be jus­ti­fied [I would delete], as what I did last year for the 2018 bud­get, [if only] to dis­prove some con­gress­men’s in­sin­u­a­tions that I am­s­in­gling out [Ar­royo] while ex­clud­ing my col­leagues,” he said.

Algu fund

Lac­son ear­lier also ques­tioned the pro­posed as­sis­tance to lo­cal gov­ern­ment units (Algu) fund, whose orig­i­nal amount, he said, was more than dou­bled to P16 bil­lion in the pro­posed 2019 bud­get by the House and Se­nate with­out con­sult­ing the DBM.

“How would that be im­ple­mented if there had been con­sul­ta­tion with the ex­ec­u­tive [branch],” said the se­na­tor, who con­sid­ers the Algu al­lo­ca­tion lump-sum funds.

The Algu fund, which is mon­i­tored and im­ple­mented by the Depart­ment of the In­te­rior and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, was al­lo­cated P7 bil­lion in the na­tional ex­pen­di­ture pro­gram that the DBM sub­mit­ted to the House.

Lac­son said his de­ci­sion to again take up the bat­tle against pork bar­rel in the bud­get in­ter­pel­la­tion had not come easy, but pub­lic sup­port had helped boost his spir­its.

“Ac­tu­ally, be­fore I took the floor to in­ter­pel­late, I was de­bat­ing with my wits if it was still worth do­ing it, mind­ful that it might be like ‘piss­ing in the wind’ again, as in the past sev­eral years that I was tak­ing on what I call a very lonely cru­sade against the pork bar­rel,” he said.

“Now, with the feed­back I’m get­ting, I can say it’s all worth it,” he added.

Not tak­ing se­ri­ously

Lac­son said he was not tak­ing se­ri­ously the claim of An­daya that 99 rep­re­sen­ta­tives got al­lot­ments big­ger than Ar­royo’s for their re­spec­tive district.

An­daya’s state­ment, he said, was made to pro­tect Ar­royo and showed the mount­ing panic in the House over his rev­e­la­tions about the pro­posed spend­ing bill.

He noted that An­daya’s claim means there would be P247 bil­lion in con­gres­sional in­ser­tions in the 2019 spend­ing bill, ex­clud­ing those sup­pos­edly added by se­na­tors.

“As any sen­si­ble Filipino tax­payer, I am­not ready to take [An­daya] se­ri­ously, even as­sum­ing that I am not aware of their ini­tial panic mode re­ac­tions to my in­ter­pel­la­tion on the na­tional bud­get [last] week,” Lac­son said.

Ping Lac­son

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