Lacson Bares Scheming, Scamming in Budget

Billions of pesos in funds for schoolbuildings are held “hostage” to congressmen in the P1.41-trillion budget for 2009, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson bared Monday. 

Lacson told a media forum this was one of the many instances of “scheming and scamming” in the budget, whose ratification by the Senate he opposed last Thursday.

“A special provision in the DepEd budget says schoolbuildings need the concurrence of the local congressman. What does the local congressman have to do with building the school? If the local government has the capability, why do you need the congressman’s concurrence?” he said.

With such a provision, he said a subcontractor building a school may need to offer bribes to “intermediaries” to get the approval of the congressman involved.

As a result, he said the resulting structures will become substandard and be easily damaged or destroyed, often in months.

“The national budget is the lifeblood of the country. But unlike human blood that goes through an anatomical process of cleaning and cleansing, the budget process in this country goes through a lot of scheming and scamming,” he said.

Earlier, Lacson questioned the speedy ratification of the 2009 budget, where the bicameral conference committee submitted the budget for ratification after only one meeting.

During the first bicameral conference committee meeting, Lacson said they allowed the chairmen of the Senate and House finance committees, Sen. Edgardo Angara and Rep. Junie Cua, to iron out between themselves the disagreeing provisions in the Senate and House versions of the budget.

But he said no notice was given to the bicameral conference committee members for another meeting, with the budget being submitted for ratification only last week.