Lacson: New House leadership continued pork barrel mess

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 8) — Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson was among the five Senators who voted against ratifying the bicameral conference committee report on the 2019 budget.

The self-styled pork barrel checker said that the new leadership of the House of Representatives merely continued to insert pork barrel funds in the budget. In July 24, 2018, on the day of President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address, Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unseated former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

"When the new leadership of the House of Representatives took over last July, in defiance of the established time-honored parliamentary rules, they disregarded their budget's plenary approval on second reading, formed a small group committee, and mangled beyond recognition the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-proposed budget, specifically those projects that they believed were part of the P75 billion," Lacson said in a privilege speech.

He was referring to the funds that current House committee on appropriations chair Rolando Andaya said were illegal insertions made by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno -- a charge Diokno has repeatedly denied.

Lacson said that around P51 billion of the controversial P75 billion funds have been distributed to all members of the House of Representatives in P20 million chunks.

"Of this amount, 20 billion pesos was distributed equally among the almost 300 congressmen, which translates into P60 million per congressman plus additional allocations to those close to the leadership of the House of Representatives. These are all embodied in the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) or the House version transmitted to the Senate," Lacson said.

The Senator also alleged that farm to market road projects and the Tulong Dunong scholarship program were used to house pork barrel funds in the proposed 2019 budget.

On the farm to market road projects, Lacson said that studying the changes from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) proposed budget to bicam report in a random sampling of districts showed that there was a massive increase in the budget in the 2nd district of Pampanga.

"Random sampling of local districts proves us right: in the 2nd legislative district of Pampanga, there are only five farm to market road projects worth P35 million under the national expenditure program, but, lo and behold, it increased to 76 farm to market road projects projects amounting to P606 million under the House version, and which is now part of the bicameral committee report that we are about to vote on to ratify," he said.

On Andaya, Lacson said that people shouldn't believe in him.

"As to the recent claim of Congressman Andaya about the P3-billion pork allocation per senator, huwag po natin siyang paniwalaan dahil sadyang napakalayo sa katotohanan ang kanyang komputasyon," Lacson said.

[Translation: Don't believe him, his computation is far from the truth.]

Other senators who voted against ratifying the bicam report include Bam Aquino, Frankling Drilon, Risa Hontiveros and Kiko Pangilinan.

On the other hand, 15 senators voted for the ratification of the report. It will now be sent to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature to become an enforceable 2019 budget.