In an interview on Politiko, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* Possible veto of questionable items in 2021 budget
* Efforts to procure COVID vaccines
* Calls for reimposition of death penalty
* Hope for the New Year
Not even the pandemic and its crippling effects could stop the greed of some lawmakers as they toyed around with the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson lamented Friday.
Lacson said this after the bicameral report on the budget showed not only manipulations in the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget, but also cuts in the budgets of other departments previously approved under the Senate and House versions of the budget bill.
“Congress bicameral committee report: P83.87B of DPWH infra projects migrated to new areas while appropriations worth P55.52B disappeared. As if it wasn’t enough to satisfy their greed, they cut the budgets of other departments by P28.35B. Story of our lives,” he said on his Twitter account.
“These realignments being capricious and arbitrary on the part of the bicameral conference committee members, they did not involve proper planning by the DPWH. This explains why, as I have pointed out in my interpellation last Wednesday, year in and year out, DPWH suffers one of the lowest budget utilization rates with an annual average of P82 billion from 2011 to 2018 and even lower average disbursement rate since 2017,” he added.
Dubious items in the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget for 2021 – including double and overlapping appropriations – could be a key starting point for Malacañang in reviewing the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget bill, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said.
“It is clear that questionable items such as double and overlapping appropriations should be vetoed, along with at least 793 line items for multi-purpose buildings with a uniform P1-million appropriation each,” he said in an interview on DZRH radio Thursday evening.
Even the multi-purpose buildings that I had repeatedly questioned in the committee hearings all the way to plenary gained more funds instead of being reduced, in spite of the obvious waste of funds due to the failure of the DPWH to implement them.
For the record, I am not questioning the collegial nature of our plenary deliberations. But I cannot give my vote to a measure as important as the national budget without having read the details of the said bicameral conference report.
All that being said, what happened is now water under the bridge. But it is high time we learn our lessons from this.
Parehong malamya ang paggastos sa kasalukuyang taon pero mas malaki ang dagdag sa pondo ng Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) kumpara sa Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) para sa 2021.
Bukod sa nabanggit na situwasyon, binanggit pa ni Senador Panfilo Lacson, vice chairman ng Senate Committee on Finance na marami ring kuwestiyonable at nasasayang lamang na pondo ang DPWH pero dinagdagan pa ng P28.348 bilyon ng bicameral panel ang badyet nito para sa papasok na taon.
Ang DICT na lubhang nangangailangan ng gastusin para sa national broadband program upang makatipid ang mga ahensiya ng pamahalaan sa bayarin sa serbisyong na mula sa pribadong sektor ay kulang-kulang P1 bilyon lamang ang idinagdag.
One department with a track record of underspending and questionable, wasteful projects may be getting an added P28.348 billion, while another department implementing a much-needed national broadband program is getting a “useless” increase of less than P1 billion in the 2021 budget.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson thus lamented on Wednesday evening the 2021 budgets of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Information and Communications Technology, after they went through the bicameral conference committee.
“As it is, at P666.474 billion as proposed under the National Expenditure Program, and we actually base this on the historical data I mentioned, we can immediately see that P82 billion cannot be used. And here we are further increasing the budget of DPWH by P28 billion… We should learn our lessons from that data,” Lacson said in his interpellation of the bicameral conference committee report of the 2021 budget.
I don’t agree on anything that is not transparent, especially if it concerns the national budget. While the bicameral conference committee may have been reduced to a “Committee of Two,” it is not exactly the case.
In fact, I already instructed my staff to coordinate closely with the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) on whatever movements of funds before the final version of the bill is presented to the bicam members for our signatures and approval.
Also, I practically demanded that I be furnished with a copy of the details of the Senate version before the convening of the bicameral conference, as what we had until yesterday morning was only the summary of the Senate version.
Having said all that, we already found some realignments that may seem questionable, based on our preliminary examination. For instance, while some of my recommended slash from the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget was adopted, we also noticed at least P10 billion worth of infrastructure projects realigned within the same agency under the Senate version.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson renewed his call to fellow lawmakers for transparency, “particularly our amendments in the 2021 budget bill.”
Lacson stressed transparency is crucial to dispel suspicions of “compromises and personal interests in our proposed amendments.”
“If we have nothing to hide, we have to make our amendments public, as I have done in my case, so those amendments can be scrutinized by the media as well as the public. It is the mandate of Congress to make amendments to the budget bill; we cannot just adopt the National Expenditure Program in toto,” he said in an interview on DZRH radio Friday evening.