Kaban ng Bayan, Bantayan! (Part 1)

Distinguished colleagues, members of the Senate of the 14th Congress of this once proud and great Republic, ladies and gentlemen:

I stand on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

In a press conference called by the Senate President inside his office last Tuesday, he virtually declared war against some of his colleagues, this representation included.

Mr. President, if you are telling us to bring it on, just like a confident poker player with winning cards would say – and I now say to you – ALL IN.

There is an Indian proverb that goes like this:

Tell me a fact and I will learn.
Tell me the truth and I will believe.
Tell me a story and it will live forever in my heart.

Ladies and gentlemen of this august chamber,

These are the facts:

On page 563 of the 2008 General Appropriations Act, — under the DPWH budget Item B Point 1 Point A Point G,  P200 million was appropriated for the construction of the President Carlos P. Garcia Avenue Extension from South Luzon Expressway to Sucat Road in Parañaque City including right of way.

On page 646 of the same budget book, /under the same heading for DPWH budget Item B Point H, Point 7, another P200 million was appropriated for the extension of C-5 Road including ROW. C5 Road is what we formerly call President Carlos P. Garcia Avenue. The project covers the same stretch – also from the South Luzon Expressway to Sucat Road in Parañaque City.

Distinguished colleagues, please allow me to very simply describe these two appropriations – one is to extend Carlos P Garcia Avenue from SLEX to Sucat Road in Paranaque City including Right-of-Way; the other is to extend C-5 Road from SLEX to Sucat Road in Paranaque City including Right-of-Way.


THE RED AND THE BLACK, THE LEFT AND THE RIGHT: Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson holds two versions of the House bill on the 2008 budget during his privilege speech at the Senate on Sept. 15, 2008 

Masterful? Maybe. Neat? Well, almost.

Carlos P. Garcia Ave. and C-5 Road are one and the same. And so is everything else that precedes and follows.

You need not be an expert on the national budget to find malice in this situation – only a keen eye and a strong motivation to pull this country out of the deep pits of corruption.

This is the truth:

During the first Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC) hearing on the national budget for 2009 last Monday morning, I pointed out to DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. the redundant appropriation, even as I asked him to explain why there is such double entry.

After consulting with his staff for about 10 minutes, he came back to his seat and said, “Mr. Chairman, your honor, it was on account of a ‘congressional insertion’.” I then challenged him that since he was accusing Congress of a “double-entry” in the budget, he should at least initiate legal proceedings against whoever is the culprit, regardless of whether he or she is an administration ally or from the opposition.

At that very moment, Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I had absolutely no idea as to who authored the so-called congressional insertion. Sec Andaya, who I thought would know, did not want to name the legislator concerned.

Being an investigator for many, many years, my instinct was to identify the project proponent from among the members of both Houses of Congress. Looking for evidence in this case is a no-brainer – just look for the billboard in the project site, and I would get the answer.

And so, before last Monday’s session started, I asked a member of my staff to go to the construction site to find out whose billboard was there to announce and own up to the Carlos P Garcia, a.k.a. C-5 road extension project. The billboard structure was there all right, but the billboard itself was recently torn down. According to some tricycle drivers plying the route who were interviewed, the billboard belonged to the Senate President.

I simply followed the narrow trail and it led me to you, Mr. Senate President. No political motive whatsoever, walang kinalaman ng iyong pagtakbo sa 2010, nor with your Senate presidency.

Anyway, that exchange of words during the DBCC hearing between this representation and Sec Andaya regarding the issue of “double-entry” in the 2008 budget book came out in the early evening news of several radio and television stations last Monday, with the budget secretary even claiming credit for the discovery of the “double-entry” and vowed to impound the second P200M appropriation.

Never mind that, Mr. President. What is clear and important here is the fact that there is indeed a “double-entry”  in this year’s national budget of P200 million each for the same stretch of road.

This is not all, distinguished colleagues.

On page 564 of the 2008 GAA, again under the DPWH budget Item B Point 1 Point A Point C for the widening of Governor’s Drive (Carmona-Dasmariñas-Trece Martires City Road including bridges,) a seemingly innocent funding of P50 million was allotted for Point C – Aguinaldo Bridge in Cavite.

But I found on page 646 of the same budget book, under the same heading for DPWH budget, under the same section for locally funded projects, and under Point H Point 6 provides P50 million – again – for the repair and rehabilitation of…you guessed it, — Aguinaldo Bridge in Cavite.

Mr. President, something odd struck me in the 2008 General Appropriations Bill.

In my seven years in Congress, this is probably the first time that I have encountered TWO versions of a House bill, namely House Bill 2454: the RED and the BLACK, the LEFT and the RIGHT. Another case of double entry? What gives?

Take the case of the DPWH budget. In GAB-1, or HB 2454 Red Version, locally funded projects in the DPWH budget received a total appropriation of P52,648,923.000.

But in GAB-2, or HB 2454 Black Version, the appropriation ballooned to a whopping P65,461,538,000, with a difference of close to P13 billion.

In the Senate version of the bill, an increase of P3,950,000,000 was further proposed, which eventually became Item H, Urgent Infrastructure Including Local Projects, under the 2008 General Appropriations Act.

The following are the insertions made in the Senate:

* Kibawe-Kadingilan-Kalinangan Road, P5 million; and Don Carlos-Kadingilan Road, P25 million, both in Bukidnon;

* Construction of access road, West Lateral Dike connecting to Hacienda Dolores, Porac Interchange of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, P100 million;

* For the completion of the Cagayan de Oro International Trade and Convention Multi-Purpose Center, P100 million;

* Tagaytay-Silang Road, Balalang-Matanda section, P13 million;

* Construction of Molino Boulevard, in Cavite, including right of way, P37 million;

* As I mentioned earlier, the construction of C-5 Road Extension from SLEX to Sucat, including right of way, P200 million – This is the first discovered double entry; and

* Aguinaldo Bridge, P50 million – This is the second discovered double entry; and,

* P200 million for Maharlika Road, God knows which part;

Included in the Senate insertions are these lump sum appropriations:

* Repair and rehabilitation, including improvement of safety standards of various roads along public schools, P100 million;

* Flood Control and Drainage System, P500 million;

* Construction, repair and rehabilitation of government facilities including educational facilities, P760 million;

* Rehabilitation, reconstruction of damaged paved national roads generated from payment management system/highway development and management, nationwide, P50 million;

* Road upgrading, gravel to concrete, based on gravel road, strategies traffic benchmark for upgrading to paved road standard, nationwide: P50 million; and

* Over and above all these, Mr. President, without any specification and merely lumped as “Various infrastructure projects,” there is a lump sum of P1.760 billion.  Saan kaya mapupunta ang ganito kalaking halaga? At sino ang magdidesisyon kung anong proyekto ang mabibiyayaan ng lump sum na ito?

Pagdating sa bicameral conference committee, ang P3.95 bilyon na iminungkahing idagdag ng Senado ay naging mahigit P4.1 bilyon. Lalo pang lumaki! Why?

Because under Item H, described as “Other national public works/local infrastructure projects,” the biggest lump sum of P1.76 billion almost doubled to P3,426,500,000.

Another lump sum appropriation outside the Senate insertions were discovered in the 2008 budget, page 657: A Dash III Point A Point 1 Point D, amounting to P2,001,850,000; and Point E, P4 billion.

Under B Point A Point 3, an amount of P7,981,565,000 was appropriated.

Of this amount, P546,653,000 was already appropriated as lump sum for projects nationwide under this category. An analysis of the insertion made in the GAA of 2008 will reveal that under Item H Point 9, there is another amount of P50 million appropriated for the same.

Para saan na naman ang dagdag na ito?

So not only do we have double entries in the line budget items. We also have double entries in the lump sum appropriations.

Total lump sum appropriations in the 2008 budget of the DPWH alone amounted to P23,467,383,000.

Make no mistake. Hindi natin minamasama ang congressional insertions, lalo na kung ang hangarin ay makapagbigay ng tamang serbisyo sa ating mga kababayang nangangailangan. Subali’t kung ito ay gagawin upang mapaboran ang iilan at madagdagan ang pagkakakitaang proyekto, ito ay dapat tutulan.

There is nothing wrong with insertions per se. These are special interests of lawmakers for their advocacies and/or constituents.

In fact, even in the preparation of what is called the “President’s Budget”, powerful members of Congress are already able to get their pet projects included in the department’s budgetary proposal. And in the deliberations on the appropriations bill in the House, and the Senate, and the powerful Bicameral Conference Committee, so-called “congressional insertions” are made.

What is abominable are the malicious double entries of P200 million and P50 million, using different names for identical projects.

Distinguished colleagues, let me go on with more of the truth.

The budget secretary, during the DBCC hearing, admitted that we generated “substantial” savings every fiscal year, out of the annual nationwide budget for personal services (PS), from a low of P80 billion out of a PS budget of P252 billion in 2002, to a high of P177 billion out of a PS budget of P366 billion in 2007.

Kung ganito pala kalaki ang hindi nagagastos taon-taon sa personal services, bakit kailangan pa ang VAT na nagpapahirap sa taongbayan?

Ang sagot ng budget secretary, ginagamit daw ito para sa Christmas bonus ng mga kawani ng pamahalaan. If this is true, then the unused portion of the budgeted PS should have enabled the government to dole out bonuses to our teachers, policemen and soldiers not only in December, but every month of the year.

Ilan na kayang beses lumampas sa ating pagsusuri ang ganito? Nangyayari ba ito taon-taon?

Balikan natin ang nangyari sa budget ng Department of Agrarian Reform noong taong 2007:

In the regular budget of the Office of the Secretary, personal services, or PS as we abbreviate it, amounted to P1,854,247,000.

Yet, in the Special Purpose Funds, a section separated from the regular budgets of line departments because these are funds earmarked for the Agrarian Reform Fund, there is another PS appropriation amounting to P1,890,273,000.
Nguni’t, kung susuriin mo ang Staffing Support ng DAR, mayroong mga posisyon at empleyadong sinuswelduhan. Pero ang ARF, a specific fund, walang Staffing Support! Kaya, Walang empleyado? Sino naman kayang mapapalad na nilalang ang mabibiyayaan ng pagkalaki-laking perang ito?

Marami pa pong mga kahindik-hindik na pangyayari, sa iba’t ibang sangay ng ating pamahalaan. Aabutin po tayo ng siyam-siyam kung susuriing mabuti.

Last Tuesday morning, I was interviewed on radio, first, by Mr. Mike Enriquez of DZBB and then by Ms. Korina Sanchez and Mr. Ted Failon of DZMM. While I mentioned during the interviews the fact that there was a billboard of the Senate President that used to stand proud to announce the road from C5 to Sucat – or Pres. Carlos P Garcia Extension construction project, I was very emphatic to point out that I was not accusing the Senate President of being responsible for the congressional insertion, and that what I was saying about the billboard and the photo release are mere statements of fact.

I have no question about the relevance of the said road project, more so if it would indeed benefit the Filipino people. Questions may probably arise later on its actual cost. But the nagging question to me is: Why fund it twice?

Public Works Undersecretary Manuel Bonoan came out last weekend and tried to justify and explain that the first P200M entry was for a flyover, and the second, for the road itself.

Former Cavite Congressman Gilbert Remulla is now saying that the second P200 million was supposed to be for the construction of a flyover from Sucat Road to Manila-Coastal Road.

If we are to believe Cong. Remulla and Usec. Bonoan’s clarifications, why did the budget not specifically describe each of the P200M entries as in the other appropriations for several projects in the same 2008 GAA, thus –

* Construction of the Quezon Eco-tourism Road, found on page 570, appropriately described as one, P190M for Phase 1; and two, P91M for Phase 2, for a total of P281M.

* The Quirino-Andaya Highway on page 572, Quezon/Camarines Sur/Camarines Norte, with an appropriation of P515M. For the Quirino Highway (Quezon side) intermittent section, P164.8M and for Andaya Highway Camarines Sur/Norte side, intermittent road, P350.2M.

* The Construction of Candelaria By-Pass Road in Quezon, including Road Right of Way, which was funded with P100 million, divided specifically into sections namely, Bukal Sur, Masin Sur, Pahinga Norte, Malabanban Sur, and Mangilag Sur, with P20 million each.

* On page 581, Las Piñas City, MSR-Quirino, with P25 million in appropriations, had two specific items, namely the MSR-Quirino, Barangay Pulang Lupa I, from Las Piñas District Hospital towards Zapote-Alabang Junction, Phase I, which was allotted P15 million; and the MSR-Quirino, Barangay E. Aldana and Barangay Pulang Lupa I, from Plaza Quezon towards Las Piñas District Hospital Phase II, which was allotted P10 million.

Kung ang isang 25 milyong pisong halaga ng proyekto sa Las Pinas City ay naipaliwanag na mabuti ang mga eksaktong lugar na paggagamitan ng nakalaang pondo, ano pa kaya ang 200 milyon?

I can go on and on, but what is clear is that the standard procedure is to identify specific stages of the project for funding, especially for the same infrastructure.

I do not know where Mr. Bonoan is coming from, but his flyover tale simply won’t fly. Mr. Remulla of course is the spokesman of Nacionalista Party, so he can always say anything for his party president.

Even more disappointing are those who claim to be against corruption but are now circling their wagons around this issue. The gentleman from Camarines Sur and Makati said I was making a mountain out of a molehill. Another colleague, the gentleman from Taguig-Pateros, who launched his senatorial campaign last year on the advocacy of “Katotohanan, Katapangan at Karangalan – Ito ang gusto ko” now says P200M is LOOSE CHANGE.

Loose change, my foot.

Distinguished colleagues, P200M may just be a molehill to some. But to common Filipinos like most of us, P200M is a mountain we cannot even scale. P200M may be loose change to some. Barya lang pala ang dalawang daang milyong piso?

For our soldiers in the field, it is loose change that can buy them bullets, combat boots and combat packs and uniforms to defend and protect Mindanao from the secessionists. It is loose change that can buy the needed spare parts for our one remaining aging C-130 plane that can transport much needed food and other supplies to areas hit by calamity and armed conflict – and keep that lone C-130 plane that we have from crashing into the sea out of metal fatigue.

It may be a molehill or a mountain of cash, depending on how one sees P200M that can help us acquire the needed spare parts for our equally aging helicopters to transport our soldiers severely wounded in battle.

Natatandaan pa ba natin ang nangyari kay Marine Corporal Angelo Abeto, na nasugatan sa engkwentro laban sa mga rebelde sa Basilan na nangyari kamakailan lamang? Dahil sa kawalan ng helicopter na agarang lilipad sa Basilan, naubusan ng dugo ang kaawa-awang sundalo, at namatay, sapagka’t huli na nang dumating ang hiniram na helicopter upang siya’y dalhin sa ospital.

Ilang litro kaya ng dugo ang maaring bilhin ng 200 milyong piso upang mailigtas ang buhay ng ating mga sundalong sugatan? Sa halagang 200 milyon, ilang sakong bigas ang maaring ipamahagi sa mga nagugutom nating kababayan? Sa halagang 200 milyon, ilang silid paaralan ang maaring ipagawa para sa ating mga mahihirap na batang mag-aaral? Sa 200 milyon, ilang pulis ang maaring armasan upang ipagtanggol ang karaniwang mamamayan laban sa mga masasamang loob at kriminal?

The Senate President, in his early afternoon press conference, accused some of our colleagues of insinuating that he pocketed public money in the construction of the C5 Extension Road. Nobody, even up to now, has accused him of pocketing part or the whole of that P200M.  In the first place, how could he pocket public money that has not been released, according to the Secretary of the DBM?

Since we were only talking of a redundant appropriation for a road project involving the President Carlos P Garcia extension from SLEX to Sucat Road in Parañaque City, why did the Senate president express fear that my fellow Cavitenos might not be able to benefit from it if full funds will not be released after I exposed the double entry? Gusto pa akong sirain sa mga ka-lalawigan ko.

The Senate President said he is open to an investigation on the project, which he said he was merely “advocating.”

But the Senate President, his voice raised for the most part of his press conference, made his own insinuation that he was linked to the mess because he announced early his intention to run for the country’s highest office in 2010.

May kasabihan sa salitang Latin, “Excusatio non petita accusatio manifesta.” An excuse that has not been sought is an obvious accusation. Sa simpleng Ingles, he who excuses himself, accuses himself. Sa sarili nating wika, ang unang pumiyok, siyang nangitlog.

Ladies and gentlemen of this august chamber: I said it before, and I will say it again. This is not about “presidentiables.” This is not about politics. This is not about 2010. This is about corruption. Corruption committed right in this hall, involving one of us, plain and simple. Everybody therefore, except that one among us, should be standing up to denounce and investigate this abominable act of corruption committed right under our noses during our budget deliberations; everyone, except that one who abused our trust and goodwill as fellow senators.

But why did the leader of this chamber react so violently to the discovery of the “double-entry” in the budget book of 2008? Why did he conveniently accuse some of our colleagues of maligning him by insinuating that he “pocketed public money”?

And, Mr. Senate President, do not act as if you are the victim in this whole exercise, because you are not. Huwag mong ipahatid sa mga mamamayang Pilipino na pulitika lamang ito, because it is not.

Now, let me tell you a story.

Mga kagalang-galang na kasamahan ko sa Senadong ito, ang pambansang gastusin ng Republika ng Pilipinas ay isang mahalaga at mala-sagradong kasangkapan ng Estado upang ibalik sa ating mga mamamayan sa pamamagitan ng imprastraktura, serbisyong sosyal at panglipunan, pagsugpo ng krimen at pagpapalaganap ng kaaayusan at kapayapaan at iba pang gawaing makakatulong na maibsan ang kahirapan ng nakararami. Ito lamang marahil ang maituturing na pambawi ng pangkaraniwang mamamayang Pilipino at makapagbibigay sa kanila ng patas na laban,– patas na laban sa mga makapangyarihan sa pamahalaan  o sa kabuuan ng ating lipunan.

Kaya, ang aking abang payo at hiling sa ating mga kasamahan ay ito lamang, kung inyong mamarapatin — Huwag sana nating abusuhin ang national budget, huwag sana natin itong paglaruan at pagsamantalahan, at higit sa lahat, huwag natin itong lagyan ng tinawag ni Sec Rolando Andaya ng DBM na “congressional insertions” kung ang hangarin pala ay nakawin lamang ang pondong may dapat paglagakan. Huwag nating singitan at tagain ang mga nilalaman ng national budget para sa pansariling kapakanan. Sa madali at simpleng pananalita, huwag natin itong daanin sa SINGIT AT TAGA.

Ang tanong tuloy ng marami sa ating mga pangkaraniwan at mahihirap na kababayan – patas nga ba ang laban nila sa mga namumuno sa ating bansa? Patas nga ba ang laban nila sa mga mayayaman at makapangyarihan sa ating lipunan?

Noong araw, oo.

Kami ni Senate President Villar ay kapwa lumaki sa hirap. Siya ay nagmula sa Tondo at ako naman, sa Cavite. Mahirap man noong araw, kami ay nagsikap sa tulong ng aming mga maralitang magulang upang makarating sa kinalalagyan namin ngayon.

Noon kasi, patas ang laban.

Tsuper ang aking ama, nagtitinda naman sa palengke ang aking ina. Subali’t noong araw, maayos ang pampublikong paaralan; may mga doktor at dentista ang gobyerno at libre ang gamot at serbisyo. Maglakad ka man ng ilang kilometro patungo sa paaralan o sa opisinang pinapasukan ay sariwa naman ang hangin na iyong lalanghapin.

Nag-iisa lamang ang pulis sa aming baryo nguni’t siya ay tinitingala at iginagalang sa aming lugar. Maayos ang kapayapaan at seguridad para sa taongbayan.

Mamingwit lamang kaming magkakapatid sa ilog at sa mga tubigan sa bukirin, may ulam na kaming isda o hipon sa hapag kainan. Mamulot lang kami ng palay kung panahon ng gapasan, ay may bigas na kaming isasaing para sa ilang araw.

Magtanim ka ng gulay at prutas sa iyong bakuran, o manghingi sa kapitbahay, mayroon ka pang pamutat at dagdag ulam.

Mag-alaga ka ng baboy at manok, siguradong may handa ka na sa susunod na pista ng bayan.

Patas ang laban.

Noong araw, magsikap ka, at kung masipag ka, may angking talino at kakayahan, maaaring matupad ang iyong pangarap sa buhay. Kumayod ka, aasenso ka. Ang magandang oportunidad o pagkakataon ay bukas kaninuman, ano man ang iyong pinanggalingan.

Ang pamahalaan noon ay matino at maaasahan, tumutulong sa mga nangangailangan.  May nabulgar lamang na may limang libong pisong halaga ng kama at mamahaling orinola sa Palasyo ng Malakanyang, katakut-takot na iskandalo ang inabot ng Pangulo ng bansa.

Ngayon, ibang-iba na. Hindi patas ang laban.

Ang mahirap, lalong naghihirap. Makakahulagpos ka lamang sa hirap kung ikaw ay pumanaw na sa mundong ibabaw.

Dahil kulang ang mga silid paaralan, maraming matatalino ang hindi nabibigyan ng pagkakataon upang makapag-aral.

Ubos ang pera mong naipon at pinagpaguran kapag ikaw ay naratay sa banig ng karamdaman. At kung wala kang perang naipon, agaran kang mamamatay.

Hindi patas ang laban.

Magnegosyo ka nang legal, napakaraming sagabal. Hindi mo kayang bilangin ang mga taga-gobyernong nanggigipit para kotongan ka ng kotongan. Naglipana ang mga buwitre at buwaya sa lansangan na sa halip na mag-ayos ng trapiko ay wala nang inabangan kundi ang kawawang motoristang nagdadaan.

At ang ating pamahalaan ay nagmimistulang manhid sa mga masasamang nagaganap sa kapaligiran. Tanging pagkamal ng yaman at pangungurakot sa kaban ng bayan ang pinagkakaabalahan.

Pati mga gamot, libro, kalsada, riles ng tren, pataba sa lupa at iba pang mga tulong agrikultura — mga pangangailangan ng pangkaraniwan at mahihirap nating kababayan, pati na ng C5 Extension Road — ay hindi na pinatawad para pagkakitaan.

Kawawang mga mamamayan. Hindi patas ang laban.

Tanging ang Senado na lamang sana ang inaasahan ng ating mga mamamayan upang ipagtanggol ang kanilang karapatan at bantayan ang mga maling gawain ng Malakanyang.

Sana ay manatiling mataas ang pananaw sa atin ng mga api nating kababayan.

Nguni’t kung mayroon din pala sa atin na may planong magpalusot ng 200 milyong piso sa mga proyektong doble-doble kung pondohan, sino pa kaya ang matatakbuhan ng mga taong binubuwisan natin taun-taon o kada buwan?

Ibalik natin ang panahong patas ang laban. Ipakita nating kaya nating tanggalin ang katakawan sa pera ng mga tao sa pamahalaan.

Let us lose no time and start an honest-to-goodness, no-nonsense investigation of these discovered anomalies in the national budget.

And he, who is responsible for attempts to defraud our taxpayers by a sinister insertion of a second entry on projects already funded under the same budget book must stand by the side and spare this institution from the shame and disgust of our constituents – the Filipino people. Or just be man enough – be MAN ENOUGH – to admit his indiscretion, then apologize to the taxpayers of this once great nation that put us all in this hall.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Philippine Senate: Truth is simple. It is lies that are complicated.

My questions therefore, before I yield the floor, are plain as they are simple.

1. Who among us proposed the insertion of a redundant appropriation of P200 million for C5 Road to extend SLEX to Sucat Road in Parañaque City in the 2008 GAA?

2. And who among us has business and financial interests in the development of the extension of the C5 Road, now renamed Carlos P. Garcia Ave from SLEX to Sucat Road in Parañaque City?

If we are able to get the truthful answers to these questions, then we can always stay proud when we face our people.