Category: Statements

On the Early Fighting over ‘Pork’ in the 2021 Budget

This early, we are already seeing the ugly effects of “pork.”

More than the possible delay in the passage of the 2021 national budget, any ugly squabble in plenary over the distribution of earmarks a.k.a. “pork” is exactly that – ugly.

When statesmanship goes out the window, our people’s respect towards the legislature as an institution as well as its individual members somehow dissipates.

Any way we look at it, it is sad and lamentable, to say the least.

Having said that, the total amount representing P135 billion covering 5,913 reappropriated items and P396 billion in lump sum appropriations lodged in the central office of the DPWH may need further clarification.

It is basic that once an infra project has started its implementation, it is already obligated. Hence, there can be no partial cash allocation, unless that project is discontinued, cancelled, or terminated. Then, the unused portion of the appropriation becomes savings that may be realigned. Or, if the project is covered by Multi Year Contractual Authority (MYCA), formerly known as MYOA or Multi Year Obligational Authority which is clearly spelled out and provided in the 2020 GAA, the same item can reappear in the succeeding budget year.

We were not born yesterday as far as budgeting is concerned.

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‘Not so Bad’ Just Not Good Enough: DICT Should Aim for ‘Excellent’ Internet Connection

With all due respect to a highly regarded Cavalier and distinguished former Senate colleague, “not so bad” may sound worse than “not so good.”

In the middle of a pandemic when the order of the day is virtual communication, what we want to hear, at least realistically, is “good enough.”

Of course, it goes without saying, “very good” or even “excellent” is what we all want to hear from DICT. Clearly, there is much room for improvement.

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On the Initial Findings of Task Force PhilHealth

I want to read the full text of the report first so I can make a more intelligent analysis and responsive comments.

That said, let me just say at the outset that obviously, the materials that we provided and shared with Sec. Guevarra and the composite task force were put into good use at the very least. This is good reason enough to feel gratified that we did our share in taking the first big step in making those criminally and administratively liable for the misuse and abuse of public monies accountable.

At least, for a change, we can hope that these “vultures” will suffer for their misdeeds to satisfy their greed at the expense of the sick and the unhealthy among our countrymen.

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A Whopping Half-Trillion Pesos and Counting: On Questionable Appropriations in the Proposed 2021 Budget

In our continuing efforts to scrutinize the 2021 National Expenditure Program, particularly on the issue of “re-appropriations” and “lump sum appropriations” involving infrastructure projects under the DPWH, we have found that the initial amount of P73.5 billion covering 2,933 items has now ballooned to P135.8 billion involving 5,913 projects – thus effectively increasing the total questionable appropriations to P532.3 billion from the initial P469 billion that we exposed earlier, including lump sums in the amount of P396.4 billion.

Considering the projects under “Operations” in the proposed budget of the DPWH has total appropriations of P613.1 billion, easily 87 percent or P532.3 billion is deemed questionable.

Having said all that, a legal question needs to be addressed as we progress in our plenary budget deliberations: Will this kind of “errata” be allowed by the Senate, or Congress for that matter, if the items to be rectified do not involve simple typographical errors or other similar minor errors like interchanged or misplaced items in the NEP?

Therefore, if my colleagues will not allow such major rectification, we may see a 2021 GAA that is reduced by more than half a trillion pesos.

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#PINGterview: ‘Haggling’ in DPWH’s Budget for 2021?

In an interview on ANC, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* items in the proposed budget for 2021
* PhilHealth anomalies
* appointment of Cezar Mancao II to DICT

QUOTES and NOTES:
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Huwag Natin Pabayaan! Mas Malaking Suporta ang Kailangan sa R&D vs COVID

At the hearing on the proposed 2021 budget, Sen. Lacson stressed the need for greater government support for research and development, especially in the fight against COVID-19. He also raised questions on:
* Information that PhilHealth is not getting full allocations from the sin tax
* Why P30B in COVID-19 response funds remain undisbursed
* NEDA’s ‘Resiliency’ planning

MORE DETAILS…
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Labag sa Constitution? Questioning Lump Sums, Re-Appropriations in the 2021 Proposed Budget

At the hearing on the proposed 2021 budget, Sen. Lacson raised questions on the following issues:
* Ability of DPWH, DoTr to accomplish infrastructure programs to rebound from pandemic
* P396B in lump sums in the DPWH’s budget – lodged in the central office
* Re-appropriations involving 2,933 items worth P73.5B in the proposed budget
* P30B not yet allocated for COVID-19 response

MORE DETAILS…
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On Full Congressional Support for the Universal Health Care

Image: CTTO

Despite the shameless corruption in PhilHealth, the 2021 Universal Health Care budget deserves full support from Congress. But we can – and must – make our health care program more meaningful by immediately putting in jail all those who stole our money, directly or otherwise.

That said, a PhilHealth under new leadership should make sure that the funds it gets for 2021 to implement the Universal Health Care Act go to the intended beneficiaries instead of its favored few.

In the same way that Congress will contribute to the success of the Universal Health Care Act, PhilHealth and the other agencies tasked with implementing it should not contribute to its failure.

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More than Emergency Powers, Strong Political Will Needed to Disinfect PhilHealth

More than “emergency powers” to reorganize PhilHealth, what the President needs is real, honest-to-goodness, strong political will first.

Since PhilHealth is a creation of a law passed by Congress, the President has no statutory power to reorganize the agency, so he actually needs an act of Congress to delegate to him such power or authority.

And if the President’s intention is to cleanse PhilHealth of scalawags and misfits, he may not need that delegated authority anymore as he has the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice and other instrumentalities of government at his disposal.

That said, there is no time to lose to exercise such political will: No matter how good our country’s economic managers are, if our health department is below the level of incompetence in the middle of this pandemic, we will all sink before we can even start to swim.

For a start, he can fire its ex-officio chairman and replace him with someone even with little above-average leadership traits, competence, honesty and integrity – and who won’t wash his hands but takes full responsibility for what PhilHealth does or fails to do.

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#PINGterview: On Pemberton’s ‘Early’ Release

In an interview on DZAR, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* Olongapo court’s order for ‘early’ release of US Marine Scott Pemberton
* DOH Secretary Duque’s ‘disagreement’ with Senate committee report on PhilHealth
* talks on Revolutionary Government

QUOTES and NOTES:
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