SEN. Panfilo Lacson on Saturday said the Philippine government has an average of about P480 billion in unused appropriations or “pork barrel” funds every year for the past 15 years covering the Arroyo and Aquino 3rd administrations ending in mid-2016.
Since the pork barrel funds during the period would amount to P7.2 trillion, Lacson, an anti-pork barrel advocate, asked aloud why the national government’s proposed 2020 national budget amounts to P4.1 trillion.
“Kasi hindi ma-implement, kasi hindi alam ng ahensya paano implement, kasi hindi nanggaling sa kanila. Ito ngayon ang pork barrel (It could not be implemented because the government agencies did not plan or conceptualize these projects. This is the pork barrel),” the senator said in a radio interview.
Lacson, Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd and Chairman of the Senate Finance committee Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara had agreed to list down the billions of pesos worth of lawmakers’ pork barrel funds for possible veto by President Rodrigo Duterte when a clean copy of the ratified Senate-House of Representatives proposed 2020 P4.1-trillion budget bill is sent to Malacañang.
President Duterte vetoed more than P95 billion worth of pork barrel appropriations for lawmakers, mostly congressmen, in the 2019 General Appropriations Act (national budget) after the Senate complained of the huge pork barrel funding.
This week, Lacson complained that he learned that the House panel recently sent a universal serial bus (USB) drive to the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office containing the pork barrel items.
The USB drive contained a “Source File” indicating P83.2 billion worth of 1,253 projects and a “List File” indicating P16.345 billion worth of 742 projects.
The USB drive was sent after the Senate and the House panels have signed their bicameral conference committee reports, which were later ratified separately by the two chambers.
When asked about the Supreme Court ruling on what constitutes pork barrel, Lacson said the lawmakers’ insistence in inserting their “pork” in the national budget is “blatant defiance.”
With the approach of the 2020 national and local elections, Lacson had intimated that lawmakers were out to even things out after being denied of their pork in the 2019 budget.
He said he would cast his dissenting vote on the ratification of the proposed General Appropriations Bill tomorrow (December 16).
“Sa Monday, manifest ko dissenting vote ako dahil sa issue na nilabas ko. Ipapaliwanag ko ang dahilan at ipapakita ko sa kanila anong items. Hopefully, ma-convince ko kasamahan ko pork barrel pa rin (On Monday, I will manifest my dissenting vote on the Senate floor because of the pork barrel issue I had revealed and will show them the specific items, Hopefully, I may be able to convince them that there are pork barrel appropriations in the budget),” Lacson added.
When also asked if every House member had a share in the P83.2-billion pork barrel, he replied: “’Yan ang inaalam pa namin (We are still looking into it).”
The senator cited a P50-million asphalt overlay project in Catbalogan City, Samar and a P70-million asphalt overlay project in North Fairview, Quezon City, both without details.
These two projects fall under the Supreme Court’s ruling of what constitutes pork barrel, he said.
Lawmakers allegedly later identify these projects before implementing agencies, and sometimes contractors also allegedly go to these agencies to tell them that they were selected by the lawmakers as project builders.
These lawmakers are also allegedly known to accept or demand some 20 to 25 percent as their commission per project.
Lacson said there were projects that had double appropriations, had the same contract costs or contractors having overlapping projects.
When also asked on why pork was bad, he said, “It is bad because there is discretion on the selection of projects and who would be the contractor. It is bad because there is commission.’’
“It is public knowledge that a lawmaker’s standard commission is 20 percent. Deduct 20 percent from a theoretical P10-billion pork, the lawmaker’s pocket will bulge with taxpayers’ money,” Lacson added.
He said the national budget contains 25 percent of infrastructure projects that go through the regular process of being selected and discussed in local and regional development centers and later transmitted to implementing agencies, mostly to the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The bigger portion of 75 percent is said to be selected or identified by lawmakers.
Lacson recalled a conversation with Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd , former Senate president, agreeing with him that it is the contractor who had the say in the implementation of lawmakers’ pork.
“That is true. I had a visitor whom I allowed to enter my office because I thought he was local government official. I was surprised he was a contractor. Why is a contractor the one following up a project? It is a sad commentary on our nation through all these years,’’ he said, quoting Pimentel.