SOME lawmakers were given up to P5 billion in “pork” allocations in the General Appropriations Act of 2017, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Wednesday.
“After all these years that I and my staff scrutinize the budget books year in and year out, I know pork when I see it,” he said. “I believe our people, especially our taxpayers, should know the real score behind all these pretenses and denials about the existence of pork.”
Lacson, one of two senators who did not vote for the budget, said that while the Senate was deliberating this year’s spending plan in the plenary, congressmen from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao came to see him in his office, telling him that their projects were worth only P1.5 billion, while others got up to P5 billion in allocations.
“Change is coming? Maybe, but it’s pork allocations changing hands from LP congressmen to those from Mindanao,” Lacson said.
Some of his colleagues in the Senate, meanwhile, complained that their allocations only came to P300 million.
Lacson, who had never used his Priority Development Assistance Fund allocation or pork barrel since he became a senator, said he did not submit a list of projects to the Budget department.
He said Senators Vicente Sotto III and Francis Pangilinan also told him on separate occasions that they, too, did not submit a list of projects.
“I don’t know who else among my Senate colleagues did not submit their list,” Lacson said, noting that those who did could get commissions from contractors.
In the final budget, Lacson said, the Department of Public Works and Highways got an extra P9.054 billion in pork at the expense of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.
“What is unfortunate is that with massive devastation brought by recent calamities… most of the victims might be left to fend for themselves instead of getting sufficient assistance from the government,” he said.
He pointed out that the victims of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” still need at least P100 billion to fully recover.
“What is sad here is the thought of sacrificing the victims of calamities for political favors and alliances,” also said Lacson.
He said the details of the DPWH budget and other agencies are not yet out.
Once they get hold of the budget books, the senator said he will scrutinize the DPWH budget.
“I and my team will continue to be the watchdog to guard against abuses in the use of public funds. I tell you–it is tiring and frustrating and not a few times, I have paused and felt resigned, simply step aside or abandon this advocacy. It is a lonely crusade, to say the least,” he said.