Partido Reporma chairman and standard-bearer Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson on Thursday said political persecution has made him tougher.
While he is aware that tales of betrayal are par for the course when one enters the world of politics, Lacson said he still found it distressing to realize that the people who earned your trust and you thought were your friends would be capable of turning against you.
Meanwhile, the Partido Reporma chairman and standard bearer said there’s a right, corruption-free way of inserting items into the national budget.
He said some politicians insert items into the national budget for their own eventual benefit.
But the presidential candidate noted there’s a correct, legal way of doing insertions without lining the pockets of the corrupt.
Lacson said lawmakers can add institutional amendments as new items in the budget that would be insulated from misuse and abuse, instead of pouring public funds into “soft” projects that corrupt officials can take advantage of.
He said he would not wish for anyone to go through the same ordeal as he did—to be persecuted in public for crimes he did not commit—because it is one of the most painful experiences that could happen to a person.
“I hope you won’t experience this. I just hope and pray you don’t experience what I’ve been through because it hurts to see your old friends, who you thought were your real friends, turn their backs on you and persecute you; to be ostracized like you had leprosy. I went through all that,” he said in a television interview.
Lacson was talking about those moments when he found out that his former colleagues in the Philippine National Police (PNP) conspired with the people working for his political opponents to assassinate his character by linking him to several illegal activities despite their lack of evidence.
He asserted that he was a ‘fugitive from injustice’ when he fled the country in 2010 and made himself scarce, which was a ‘judgment call’ on his part, to avoid going into prison on trumped-up charges perpetrated by some powerful people in government who just felt threatened by his rise in politics.
The presidential aspirant said he agonized about it even as he got vindicated by the courts, which ruled in his favor and dismissed the cases filed against him. Regardless, Lacson said he would not trade that experience because it also taught him a valuable lesson about loyalty and friendship.
“I’m reminded, somebody said a long time ago, there are two kinds of friends in this world: the jealous — the envious—they drop out on your way up; the opportunistic ones, they drop out on your way down. That is what I experienced,” he said.
“But then there is that third rare kind, those are true friends na talagang they will be there for you through thick and thin. That is the lesson I learned.”
Lacson said these ‘real friends,’ including his most loyal staff members in the Senate, are among the people who are helping him survive the challenges of politics.
Besides his integrity, which he considered as his ‘most prized possession’ in life, the veteran lawmaker also expressed how much he values his working relationship with his employees.
Lacson also mentioned he had clear boundaries set between his public and private lives. He doesn’t want to get members of his immediate family, including his wife Alice and their children, involved in government affairs as much as possible.
“We all know, even in the past, once a relative or family member intervenes in the job of a public official, that is where compromises could happen,” he said.
The Partido Reporma chief, who has been espousing the principle of ‘leadership by example,’ said his wife Alice would be satisfied to take the role of a ‘ceremonial first lady’ should he get himself elected as the 17th head of state in the upcoming 2022 elections.
The pork barrel system, he said, isn’t bad per se. In the US (United States), it’s called ‘earmarks’. But how can I, you know… I also do insertions. I also make amendments, but all of them are institutional amendments; meaning, say DOST.
“I know these agencies need money, need additional funding for research and development, or DICT (Department of Information and Communication Technology) or even… the other agencies for that matter — DepEd (Department of Education,” said Lacson.
“I do insert items, I do amend (the budget) but for institutional (spending). If you amend for a road project, if you amend for a livelihood (program); meaning soft (spending), that we know that someone will ask a commission from, that’s what I don’t want. Because there’s misuse and abuse of the national budget.”
“This is why the central program of his presidential campaign is budget reform, the Partido Reporma chairman explained, along with his advocacy for a zero-based budgeting system for the government as is done in the private sector.”
“Let’s change the system. Instead of imposing a budget ceiling to the agencies, the planning gets lost there because, for example, the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) will be given, for example, okay, P600 billion for the following year, (the) succeeding year. So, what will the DPWH do?”
With a zero-based budget system, the three-term senator said the implementing agencies would have to defend every project, program and activity needing funding in the budget they propose to their local development councils, and later the DBCC for the national budget. This would then avoid last-minute insertions and prevent graft from seeping in.
Then when the budget gets to Congress, he said each lawmaker will have their own insertions, without any consultation with the implementing agencies. So, there’s a disconnect.
The agencies would not know how to implement the projects introduced by legislators because there’s not even any consultation before they put those items in.