Interview on CNN Philippines: Thwarting Pork in the 2020 Budget | Nov. 19, 2019

In an interview on CNN Philippines, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– thwarting ‘pork’ in the proposed 2020 budget
– role of VP Robredo in anti-drug war



On whether the budget is pork-free:

“As it appears, walang pork because as announced, P9.5B in institutional amendments talagang yan lang. We could not find anything that was manipulated from the NEP to the version of the HOR transmitted to the Senate. Ang worrisome is after they approved the HOR version on 3rd and final reading may announcement sila na they are still entertaining submission of individual amendments to a small group committee. I don’t know where that’s coming from. Pero isa lang ang pupuwedeng reason: They would still hold on to these individual amendments, we don’t know how much. And these would be inserted during the BCC to reconcile the disagreeing provisions ng HOR and Senate versions.”

“Yan ang worrisome because ang BCC, napaka-exclusive noon. It’s not transparent or open to the public and only bicam members are discussing all the possible discussions. Now we want to clarify and I intend to clarify this because I will automatically be a member of the BCC of the Senate. I would like to clarify because intention ng BCC to reconcile differences sa HOR and Senate but hindi naman ganoon ang nangyayari. There are amendments that come in that are not included in either version. Wala roon. Yan ang nakaka-worry.”

“So I intend to clarify that during our first day. Dapat kung may isasama silang additional amendments na di kasama sa HOR version they should submit everything to us first and we meet as Senate committee discuss it and determine which are acceptable and which are not. And then ibalik namin sa discussion ng bicameral panel ang mga contentious. Ang pwede namin i-accept, fine, wala nang discussion. That would be a more systematic way of discussing the two versions.”

On individual amendments:

“Yan ang di ko rin mainitindihan. Worst, ang nangyari sa last Congress. Tapos na ang bicameral report, we ratified it, the HOR ratified it. Kasi sila nagpi-print. When they printed the enrolled copy, naiba. So we could not agree. And it’s good enough na meron kaming legal guru si FMD who advised SP Sotto, na pwede ka naman pumirma riyan with reservations. Meaning di kasama ito sa pipirmahan ko. Kasama sa na-print ang hindi namin na-ratify. Kung hindi, we’ll be party to the illegal act.”

“If they push through with it, it’s no better than last Congress. Depende sa volume ha.. Kung magkano. Kasi kung ima-mangle moa ng HOR version and Senate version and magbubuo ka ng isang malaking pie within a pie that would render unidentifiable ang original versions ng HOR and Senate, masama yan. Bakit pa kami nagdebate, bakit pa sila nagdebate, yun pala.”

“They have not submitted it, they are still keeping it. In case they really entertain more amendments, nasa kanila pa yan. We don’t know what those amendments are.”

“Kailangan define namin ang parameters ng BCC. Dapat ito basically ibig sabihin ng BCC, reconcile lang differences ang disagreeing provisions ng both versions. Ang nangyayari nga, ang tawag sa BCC yan ang 3rd chamber, which is the most powerful chamber ng Congress, unofficially. In practice, ang nangyayari we meet there formally, just establish a quorum. Tapos we leave it to the chairman of the appropriation committee of the HOR and Senate finance committee chairman. Sila lang nag-uusap. Last Congress di yan nangyari kasi tumutok kami roon, kami nina Sen Drilon and Villar, ang mga vice-chair, naroon kaming lahat.”

“Right now it’s pork-free. But here’s the catch. It seems that they already introduced their amendments, their pet projects, even before the NEP was submitted to the HOR. That explains why we saw some vaguely described items. P507M Kennon Road, period. Ang worry ko roon, may budget noong 2019, Sorsogon, nag-overlap. Iba ang contractor for south iba ang contractor for north. One lane, one lane. May nag-overlap doon na dapat ang savings ng government sa P11M. Small amount, change, compared to the bigger pie. Pero ang worry ko rito sa Kennon Road, there’s this P507M described as Kennon Road, then there is this P76M with stationing, from Km so and so to Km so and so. Baka mamaya ang P76M kasama sa P507M. So I inquired and asked DPWH through the sponsor, baka ganito na naman ito parang Sorsogon and Masbate na nagoverlap because hindi klaro.”

On whether including projects in NEP is wrong:

“There’s something wrong if no vetting was done by the agency or agencies concerned. Kung properly vetted, that’s fine. Because kung kailangan ng district talaga tapos vetted if it’s implementable at walang duplication, that’s fine. But here’s the thing. During my interpellation, ang naka-ready mga errata. And mind you, ganito kakapal ang errata, kasing-kapal ng budget book. Sabi ko errata pa lang kasingkapal ng budget book. Ibig sabihin naka-ready na sila because remember I already exposed some questionable items within NEP. And I was suspicious galing yan sa legislators. True enough mukhang binalikan nila nakita nila maraming mali talaga. During my interpellation sabi ko sa kanila I want a copy of the errata.”

On possible delays in the budget’s approval:

“No I don’t think so. We are right on schedule.”



Assessing the VP’s performance in the first 2 weeks:

“I think she’s saying all the right things and doing all the right things (in her first two weeks) because the first thing she did was meet with members of the ICAD. And there are 20 agencies.”

“When she consulted me before she met with ICAD, I suggested to her na i-maximize ang network with foreign counterparts. I mentioned to her US DEA, HK Narcotics Bureau based on our own experience, but now medyo magulo sa HK. Of course, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia. Because she would need all the information that she could have.”

“(She needs all the information ICAD has) because she’s involved in policy making, policy formulation, so she’ll need all the basic information to formulate policies and to give direction.”

“(She needs the information on high-value targets because) that’s basic information. Kung di niya alam ang nasa HVT list, how could she proceed in the first place?”

“(Her accepting the ICAD post) was a judgment call. And everybody was surprised. Pero I think so far that was the right decision. Because no-win situation. Had she declined maraming sasabihin sa kanya, she was criticizing, in-offer sa iyo ang challenge, ayaw mo naman. Ngayon tinanggap niya, kung may malice, sasabihin was it a ruse, it was offered to her and now it appears to be some kind of fire they could not contain or put off.”

On PDEA chief Aquino’s reported claim VP does not need to have the HVT list:

“On second thought he said he’s going to submit it to her in private, which is the right thing to do because these are classified information. And I think the VP knows how to handle classified information, kasi being the second highest official I think she has the necessary security clearance to handle. And she knows the consequences in case she shares it with unauthorized persons, much less doon sa mga foreign governments.”

On possible conflict between PDEA DG Aquino and VP Robredo:

“I don’t want to inject malice. Thinking objectively I’d like to think that they would give her the full support. As we see it now, ang mga announcements mukhang hindi doon ang direction. And as early as possible I think the 2 of them. Kasi si DG Aaron ang may differences with the VP. All the others mukhang okay naman ang pakikitungo sa kanya. DDB Chair Cuy, PNP OIC Gamboa, may mga natural allies naman for the sake of the overall objective.”

“Coming out sa media na projecting all these differences, all these misunderstanding, parang hindi rin tama rin sa all-out war against drugs.”

“The situation itself is awkward. DG Aquino is the chair of ICAD. Ang rank niya Usec. Here comes the co-chairperson who is the VP, ang unang announcement Cabinet member si Secretary. How would a co-chairperson be secretary and the chairperson is Usec? Now it’s being corrected by Malacanang, sabi niya I did not sign her appointment as a Cabinet member. Yan ang awkward. They really have to sort it out for the sake of the drug war.”

“Upon her appointment, the first thing (VP Robredo) should have done kung may opportunity was to clarify the parameters ng kanyang responsibilities, ang kanyang authority. Importante especially ang scope ng authority. Kasi kung hindi mo alam ang scope ng authority mo hindi mo alam flexibility mo, napakahirap ng situation. And she told me that. During our meeintg, sabi niya first thing I will do is clarify, define the parameters of my position.”… “Sabi ko it’s better to write down everything. Mahirap ang verbal. Kung official memo mas malinaw yan.”

On why some ICAD members are uncomfortable with sharing confidential info with VP:

“It’s a given. Because she belongs to the opposition and ang reservations ang apprehension is valid. It’s valid. Kaya mabuti rin there’s a reminder from the President himself na she could be fired. And I think that’s a fair reminder, but of course that should be qualified by the fact that the VP should know how to handle classified information.”

“The situation itself is awkward from the very beginning because the VP belongs to the opposition. And precisely she was not allowed to attend Cabinet meetings before her appointment when she was heading HUDCC because the President and some members of the Cabinet, siguro ang mga security cluster, were uncomfortable with her joining Cabinet meetings.”

On where VP should focus on:

“As chair of the ICAD she should focus on policies, direction, and consolidation of all the efforts. Marami namang components. Law enforcement, justice, advocacy, rehab, reintegration. Marami siyang pwedeng pagtuunan ng pansin. But law enforcement is part of the clusters.”

“Hindi sa makialam on the ground, mag-hands on or sumama or tactical involvement or engagement, hindi kailangan. But at least she should know ano ang general direction ng law enforcement. Meaning, ano ba ang focus? Would law enforcement continue focusing on demand side? Because 2-pronged, demand and supply. Ang kanyang thinking, I agreed with her when we met, focus should be on the demand side. Pag supply side, ito ang HVT, suppliers, big drug lords. Demand side, ito ang posibleng mga naka-tsinelas, naka-shorts, small-time street pushers, even users.”

“Meron din (nakuhang HVT ang war on drugs) but not enough. Ang focus kasi masyado ng mga pulis, law enforcement, doon sa demand side. Ito ang mga users, mga pushers. But meron din silang nakukuhang malaking quantity in so many operations. But then nasaan ang mga suspects? Mukhang doon nagkukulang kasi more often than not nakaalis na ang suspect, nahuli ang shabu, but they could always bring in precursors, or even meth in large quantities. Experience would tell us during our initial hearings, doon sa Valenzuela, sa Malabon, meron munang makakawala then may mahuhuli. Sa Valenzuela for example may nakawala napunta sa Manila and San Juan, and those are large quantities. Ang nakuha sa Valenzuela kakaunti na lang.”

“And this is complicated by the so-called rogues in uniform, mga ninja cops. They would develop intelligence against big-time drug pushers or drug suspects. But then, instead of really haling them to court, so to speak, ay nagkakalagayan. Like in the case sa Mexico, Pampanga.”

“We have PDEA that should focus on the big traffickers. If we go back in time, panahon ni Al Capone, ang untouchables, nagbuo ng task force si J Edgard Hoover, FBI director. Ang instruction niya, you can get the small fry pero para makakuha ng information to reach to the top. Of course iba ang situation sa US because they have plea bargaining. They can still file charges against small-time criminals and then bargain with him for more information to reach the top. But the small-time criminal would still be punished but with a lower offense.”