‘Pork for favorites’

Lacson insists favored lawmakers still get more funds

FORMER Senator Panfilo Lacson insisted  Wednesday  that pork barrel was embedded in the 2015 national budget despite a Supreme Court ruling that declared it unconstitutional, and that these funds were not distributed equitably among lawmakers.

Based on his team’s studies on the P2.6 trillion capital outlay, Lacson noted there were lawmakers who got more pork barrel through re-alignment and insertions.

“Because re-alignment and insertions are still very much alive, there were some congressmen and some senators who got more than the others,” Lacson said.

He said the “brighter and smarter” among the lawmakers were able to make re-alignments for their projects with different government agencies through bigger insertions.

Lacson added that he intended to question the budget before the Supreme Court.

He also said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was not responsive to his expose regarding pork barrel because he talked about special purpose funds.

“I haven’t reached that. I’m talking about regular budget of the national agencies. We haven’t reached special purpose funds yet. His response was wrong.”

In response to Lacson’s allegations, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)  on Wednesday  denied it had lump sum or discretionary funds amounting to P102.6 billion in the 2015 General Appropriations Act.

“How can that be when the budget of the department is already P107.8 billion? We do have a budget for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) amounting to P102 billion, and the breakdown can be found in pages 909 to 928 of the national budgetary document,” DSWD Secretary Corazon J. Soliman said.

She added that the DSWD’s 2015 budget also has the following major categories: general administration and support, P980,680,000; support to operations, P265,747,000; and operations, P86,034,766,000.

“Part of the operations budget includes P62.2 billion for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps); P5.9 billion for Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens; P4.9 billion for the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP); and P3.3 billion for the Supplemental Feeding Program (SFP),” she added.

The National Irrigation Administration also denied having a lump-sum fund of P11.3 billion.

In a statement, the agency said the General Appropriations Act of 2015 clearly shows that the P11.3 billion was broken down into projects per region with their corresponding budget allocation.

“The master list of projects is available to the public and anyone is free to scrutinize the 2-inch thick document at the NIA Office. The master list is also published at the NIA website,” it said.

NIA Administrator Florencio Padernal said the only lump sum amount in the NIA budget is the P500-million quick response fund for disaster support for repair and rehabilitation of the agency’s facilities.

“This fund is valid for two years, only expiring by the end of 2016 and cannot be converted into a discretionary fund until expiration,” the NIA chief said.

He maintained there are no insertions in their 2015 budget of P146.235 million, as Lacson had suggested.

Also on Wednesday, whistle blower Sandra Cam challenged Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to file graft charges against allies of President Benigno Aquino III who were beneficiaries of the pork barrel scam.

“Why not file the 3rd batch of PDAF cases? Is this proof that the DOJ is for selective justice?” Cam said in a media forum in San Juan City.

“We need the truth to come out here. The people deserve to know if they are sincere in filing graft raps against these third batch of PDAF cases,” she added.

Cam, president of a whistleblowers’ group, said 15 politicians from Senate and the House, are included in the list of respondents.

“About 80 percent are allies of the government,” she said.

Cam said her sources within the National Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department want to move on the third batch of cases, but De Lima has put that on hold until the end of the year.

But Cam said she didn’t believe De Lima would file the cases this year.

“Why is the filing of these PDAF cases taking so long,” she said. “I do believe that De Lima is the Secretary of Selective Justice.”

Cam also chided President Benigno Aquino III noting that during his five years in office, he has indicted only three opposition senators.

“Why don’t they catch those in the third batch?” she said.

“I would just like to ask President Aquino if this  tuwid na daan  (straight path)  is just for your enemies,” Cam  said. – With  John Paolo Bencito,  Rio N. Araja, PNA

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