Interview on ANC: SEA Games Early Hosting Woes; Voting in Tandem; ‘Pork’ in 2020 Budget | Nov. 27, 2019

In an interview on ANC, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– House leaders’ claims that Senate to blame for early hosting woes for SEA Games
– pork in the 2020 budget
– reported proposal to vote for President and VP in tandem
– advice to VP Robredo after her removal as ICAD co-chair



On House leaders’ claims that Senate to blame for SEAG hosting woes due to delayed 2019 budget:

That’s too far from the truth. Everybody knows by now, it created a lot of controversy then. During the speakership of GMA the budget was delayed because even after both houses ratified the bicam report, yan ang final version, and yet they still inserted around P75B. And that we could not agree to. So what we did was to again scrutinize and find out which of those P75B worth of projects yung napasok after or post-bicam ratification. And unconstitutional because there’s a provision in the Constitution, after the third and final reading, wala nang papasok na amendments.”

They (House) should not blame us. Sila ang reason for the delay. Of course the Senate was also partly not to blame, but we do not regret what we did because scrutinizing the budget and making sure na walang mali sa budget, constitutional duty namin yan. That’s what we exactly did and that caused the delay of the budget. But we did not cause it. It was the HOR that really caused the delay in the passage of the budget.”

On the possibility that SEAG budget could have been released earlier:

No, that could not be the case. Contained siya sa 2019 budget di pwedeng may mauna. It’s one whole package, the GAA of 2019, so sama-sama yan. Hindi pwedeng gawing dahilan yan. Look, halos tapos na kami sa budget, we have submitted our individual amendments. But it’s far from over simply because we have yet to meet in bicam. Yan ang magiging problema kasi dito na naman ang bakbakan. Because what we need to discuss during BCC supposedly ang disagreeing provisions. Meaning, pinasa ng Senado at HOR yan lang pinaguusapan. Pero sa tunay na buhay, ang nangyayari, ang daming ibang insertions not even tackled during the Senate or HOR debates, yet pinapasok.”

Possible conflict of interest involving PHISGOC:

Once a resolution is filed calling for an investigation, then we will investigate. If a senator would deliver a privilege speech, we have to investigate because necessarily it will be referred to a committee, in this case either BRC under Dick Gordon, who’s a no-nonsense chairperson; and/or the committee on sports. I think chaired by Sen Bong Go.”

That (PSC transferring P1 billion to a private foundation like PHISGOC) is questionable. Remember, may mga nakasuhan na at may mga na-convict na riyan using a private foundation as a repository of public funds. Yan ang Napoles case. Yan ang mga private foundations ginamit na ginawang parking lot ng mga public funds coming from the expenditure program of government. We have yet to see that because there are justifications put forward by Speaker Cayetano when he appeared as a resource person during budget deliberations of the PSC and BCDA. Sabi niya every step of the way, they were in consultation with COA.”



On whether the DPWH’s 2020 budget is pork-free:

I don’t think so. It will never happen. It’s an impossible dream as I said, dahil pork will always be there. Sa DPWH, DepED, DA, lahat yan may insertions.”

“The HOR version transmitted to us contained only P9.5B amendments consisting of institutional amendments. But when we deliberated on the budget in the Senate, I for one when I interpellated, I noticed there are projects in the DPWH budget that could not be explained simply because they are lump sum. So when I questioned the DPWH through the sponsor, ang lumabas doon may mga projects na they clarified so they brought a district errata even thicker than the budget book itself. When we scrutinized the errata submitted by the DPWH, P45B were added but P47B are actually new projects. So ang consultation ko with the other senators, they cannot do that because DPWH being an executive agency cannot participate in the amendment of the budget; only the senators can introduce amendments. So effectively when I questioned so many billions worth of PAPs, they corrected it by submitting errata. But in the errata may mga bagong projects.”

Instead of clarifying the questionable projects listed in their budget, may bagong projects na in-insert. I suspect kasi di rin ma-explain masyado ni Sec Villar, I suspect that the projects that were initially inserted sa DPWH, galing sa mga congressmen. And then when I questioned it, they went back to the congressmen. So instead of clarifying the projects they could not explain they would implement the projects, ang ginawa, pinalitan ang mga projects. Ang problema rito, remember, after they transmitted the budget to the Senate there was pronouncement from the Speaker and some other congressmen that they were still waiting for some amendments. So pine-prepare nila yan sa bicam because they had already transmitted the HOR version. So how would they still entertain amendments from their members? And when those projects were questioned, doon na nila sinama sa errata some amendments that they would want to insert during the bicam.”

DPWH’s reported claim that 2020-21 will be is the golden age of infrastructure since its P590B budget will pass smoothly in bicam:

Even DPWH has a big problem in utilizing their appropriations. As per latest COA report, ang mga issues involved, ang projects 36% ang DPWH, 39% ang DoTr disbursement over obligation. May issues like not completed within the contract time, not yet started, suspended. Something like P118B worth of projects, sa mga 4,300 plus projects ang hindi nagawa.”

“There goes another problem. Ang ini-implement ng DBM is cash-based budgeting. Ang sinasabi roon, they must obligate lahat na appropriations within 1 year kasi cash-based. But the disbursement could take 2 years. Now here’s the rub. Ang obligation means that may notice of award, meaning awarded sa contractors. Disbursements could come as per accomplishment, per billing nila. That’s fine. But the problem is, nag-cash based budgeting tayo and yet for 2 years in a row we’ve been passing legislation to extend the availability of funds in a certain budget year for another year. I questioned this during my interpellation, bakit pa tayo nagka-cash based budgeting na di naman practical at hindi realizable? Hindi naman kaya eh.”

“And ang nangyayari, last year we passed a joint resolution but because SC put its foot down on joint resolution na walang effect sa batas, right now we passed a bill that is awaiting the signature of the President again extending the availability hanggang December 2020.”

“We already slashed it (DPWH budget) in the Senate version. Dahil ang unused appropriations, school buildings for example, because DPWH is the implementing agency of DepEd when it comes to school buildings. Ang carryover nila from 2014 to 2019, 58,000 classrooms. Meaning, out of the 78,000 classrooms na dapat ginawa hanggang 2019, ang nagagawa lang nila 19,000. You can imagine the backlog.”

“We have a big problem. Release of funds, no problem because funds are available. Even in budget expenditure sources of financing, galing sa DBM ito, we’re borrowing more than what we need, more than what is expected sa deficit natin. For example In 2018, we borrowed P897B to address a deficit of only P558B. In 2019 we borrowed P1.18T to address a deficit of P620B. In 2020, we project to borrow P1.4T to address a projected deficit of P677B. My question is, kung ila-laymanize natin ito, negosyante ako, I would be needing P1M para additional capital, why would I borrow P1.5M?”

“I asked that, sabi nila they are building up cash. But over the years? Pwede ka mag-build up ng cash position ng gobyerno for whatever reason for 1-2 years but ito ang pattern. And the gap between our borrowings and deficit natin masyadong malaki. Imagine to address a projected deficit of P677B we’re going to borrow P1.4T?”

DoTr’s low disbursement rate:

“They cannot also absorb the budget appropriated para sa DoTr.”

“A few billions (may be slashed from the DoTr budget). That’s not yet final. Those are my amendments that have yet to be adopted by the Senate as a body, to come up with our own version of the budget.”

Claims that ‘Build Build Build’ is a dismal failure:

It may not be a dismal failure but it is not a success. Kung successful yan, they would not change course in midstream, so to speak. Di ba nag-change sila ng projects, nag-adjust sila. They abandoned several projects sa Visayas and even in Mindanao kinalimutan nila. So nasa pipeline, kung abandon mo ang project, we cannot call it a success. But I don’t want to judge the Build Build Build program as a dismal failure kasi meron din namang nagagawa.”

Projects that would contribute to BBB’s success:

“No. 1, EDSA. We have to find a solution to the traffic in EDSA. Pag yan ma-solve saludo tayong lahat.”

“(Skyway extension to decongest EDSA by first quarter of 2020) That is true. South to North and North to South may alternate routes. But then masyadong delayed na yan. We’re supposed to be using Skyway connector way back in 2017 or 2018. Now it’s extended to December 2019, mukhang aabutin tayo sa first quarter of 2020.”

“(Metro Manila Subway) will be finished in 2025, yan ang projected termination ng project, yung MM Subway.”

Funding gaps in landmark legislations:

“I realigned some budget we slashed from DPWH and other agencies to CHED. Even from DepEd to CHED. Because ang funding gap sa free tuition tertiary education, out of the 1.5M students who applied, 432,000 lang ang kaya nilang pondohan based sa budget nila. So what we did was to realign. I hope it will be carried all the way to bicam.”

Tatlo ang landmark legislation passed under this administration. Free tuition, UHC, and National ID. Lahat ito may funding gaps. UHC for example. Under Tier 1 or 2, ang funding gap masyadong malaki. Sa Tier 2 may low-cost, medium-cost and high-cost. Pag low-cost walang bagong programa. Ang ongoing programs ng DOH under 2019 budget will be continued till 2020, so hindi tayo nag-level up. If we consider leveling up to medium cost, we will need P241B. Right now ang appropriations for UHC P151B. So P10B more than the P141B for 2019. E yan inflation lang ang sasagutin niyan. May funding gap tayo between 241 and 151. Ang medium-cost, there are select areas tutugunan ng DOH. But kung aspire natin is high cost, meaning every barangay will be covered kailangan natin P257B.”

“Ang dine-deliberate natin sin tax, alcohol and e-cigarettes. Ang maximum if the Senate version will be adopted, P48B. Kung DOF version nasa mga 31-32 or 33B. Pagka ang HOR version 16B. So not enough to cover for requirement of DOH to cover high cost ng Tier 2.”

P7.9-trillion national debt:

“Baon tayo sa utang, nasa P7.9T na ang utang natin. Translated per capita, every Filipino may P79,000 na utang. Even ang pinanganak kanina may utang na P79K. And we keep borrowing in large amounts na hindi naman talagang makaka-address o kailangan i-address sa deficit natin. P1.4T projected borrowings in 2020 against only P677B, imagine. Papalo tayo ng P8 trillion before 2022.”

Major disconnect between national, local government:

Ang problema natin ang RDC-initiated or endorsed projects constitute 20-25% of the appropriations law. Ang 75-80%, agency-initiated. May disconnect eh. Who would know better the needs and priorities of the communities than LGUs? So when the LDCs from barangay, municipal, city and provincial, submit their local development plans all the way to RDC to be incorporated, pag nagkaroon ng budget call, yan dapat ang priorities because yan ang pinagaralan sa baba. Sa implementation ang nangyayari, there are local projects na devolved ang function sa mga LGUs. And yet ang implementing agencies, national government. So why don’t we just download the resources to the provincial, municipal, city? Sila nakakaalam ng pangangailangan sa baba.”

I filed a bill, BRAVE, Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment. We should reverse the distribution of resources from national to local. Ito ang gusto ng Presidente, ng administrasyon mag-federalize. Pero di natin kailangan mag-change ng Charter. All we need to do is download and have a more equitable distribution of resources to make the LGUs compete with each other in terms of development. Right now pwede nila gamitin from their IRA and this is a law, only 20% of IRA could be spent for development. But if we download resources for their development sila na mag-implement. Anyway kino-contract din ang DPWH. Why not capacitate natin ang munisipyo, ang planning officers nila? Pagaralan natin may Local Government Academy?”

“For 2021 I’m going to pursue. With the help of LG executives, ngayon medyo active si former Justice Velasco, he’s now president of the League of Provinces of the Philippines. And he’s very active because they are pursuing the SC ruling on IRA. There’s a new ruling from the SC saying not only BIR collections maski ang BOC collections basta national taxes should be included in their IRA. Ito nilalaban nila. They are invoking they need P92 to 100B initially. So may disconnect talaga.”

“The problem is, congressmen and district representatives, especially those at loggerheads with their governors and mayors, siyempre mas gusto nila pagdating sa House, doon na lang sila mag-insert ng budget for the provinces, for their districts. Whereas the more practical and I think this is a wiser solution sa budget appropriations, is bottom up.”



Proposal to vote for President and VP in tandem:

“I would support that except that I’m not sure if it’s a violation of the Constitution. I’m not sure, I’ve not read the provision, pero bakit hindi in tandem boboto, probably it’s in the Constitution. So if we pass legislation that is not in consonance with the provision of the Constitution, baka ma-declare na unconstitutional.”



Advice to VP:

“If she wants to continue, nag-start na siya sa advocacy, then she can continue. Ang advice ko lang is medyo parang threatening ang kanyang binitiwang salita na hindi nila ako kilala, isisiwalat ko sa taumbayan. Sa akin if it will be harmful or maging impediment sa drug war, sana huwag na lang. Pero kung isisiwalat niya ang natutunan niya to improve, enhance or help, then by all means she should report to the nation.”