Exposing attempts to sneak “pork” into the national budget is part of a patriotic duty to ensure good governance through the proper spending of Filipino taxpayers’ money, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said.
Lacson said that as a lawmaker, it is his job to thwart attempts by some solons to circumvent the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling declaring “pork” as unconstitutional, lest public money is lost to corruption and incompetence.
“If by exposing all attempts by some lawmakers to go around the Supreme Court ruling declaring pork as unconstitutional, thus stymieing the selfish interests of those elected to perform their legislative duty, I’ll be able to sleep soundly at night knowing that I’ve done my share in guarding against unnecessary wastage of public funds that has prevented our country from taking off and become competitive,” he said.
“My critics would claim I am just making a lot of noise but I do not let such negative comments affect, much less stop me. This is my biggest advocacy because the budget is the lifeblood of the nation. If this blood is taken away, the nation may suffer from anemia, or even a stroke,” he added.
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Lacson lamented the pork barrel system, whose abolition he sought in a privilege speech as early as 2003, leads to instances of corruption involving irregularities such as commissions and ghost employees.
Causing further wastage are incompetence and inefficient planning of projects such as roads and bridges, which could have potentially deadly consequences.
“It’s bad enough that much is lost to corruption. But it’s worse that more is lost to incompetence, where the lack of planning leads to the haphazard – and potentially deadly – implementation of projects,” Lacson said.
“We pay our taxes and some of us even go hungry because we do not have enough left to buy basic necessities. A recent post about a pupil using an improvised ball pen because he could not afford one went viral. Why do such things happen? Because there are those who steal from the budget,” he added.
On Tuesday, Lacson bared a scheme by leaders of the House of Representatives to manipulate the bicameral committee report on the P3.757-trillion budget for 2019.
Citing information from some House members themselves, Lacson said the manipulations include a menu list of the Department of Health appropriations for Health Facilities Enhancement Program worth P25 million in individual allocations for congressmen favored by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
These include a P2.5-million allocation for the purchase of an ambulance.
But those who did not support Mrs. Arroyo’s election as Speaker were left with only P8 million.
Lacson noted this “brazen, illegal act” after the bicameral report had been ratified by both houses smacks of grave abuse of discretion by Speaker Arroyo, and violates the 1987 Constitution’s provision barring amendments to a bill upon its last reading.
Even the reported claim of House appropriations committee chairman Rolando Andaya Jr. that the House is merely itemizing appropriations cannot be justified, he added.
“As if the act of ‘itemizing’ the allocations in the bicam can justify or cure what is explicitly provided under Art. VI Sec. 26 (2) of the Constitution, thus: ‘Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed,'” Lacson said.