Questions? Misconceptions? Spins? Lies? Fake news?
Let’s separate FACT from FAKE; and CLARIFY the ISSUES.
[Click/Tap here for the Filipino version]
* Pork and the National Budget: Abuse of the budget by greedy politicians to ensure their ‘pork.’
* New Senate Building: A new home that the Senate can truly call its own.
* Yolanda Rehabilitation: Efforts to help those affected by the super typhoon.
* Corruption at the Bureau of Customs: Exposing graft in the agency.
* Fake News from the Past: Accusations repeatedly thrown Sen. Lacson’s way when he was with the PC/PNP and during his first years as senator.
* APOLOGIES: Apologies extended to Ping Lacson over the fake news thrown his way.
[back to THE ISSUES]
* Did Sen. Lacson delay/hold the budget hostage due to a ‘vendetta’ against Speaker Gloria Arroyo?
* Is the House doing something unconstitutional by itemizing the budget after ratification?
* Did the Senate slash funds for ‘Build, Build, Build’ and other key programs with its actions on the budget?
* Will retired military and uniformed personnel have no pension increase this year because the Senate slashed the funds for it?
* Does Sen. Lacson really have his own pork insertions?
* Does Sen. Lacson favor lump-sum appropriations despite his stand against pork?
* Does Sen. Lacson want President Rodrigo Duterte to fail?
❌FAKE: “Sen. Lacson delayed/held the P3.757-trillion budget for 2019 hostage due to his “vendetta” against House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”
1. Sen. Lacson’s actions are not about any congressman or senator. Rather, his actions are about his crusade against the pork barrel system and about the national budget, which is the lifeblood of our country.
2. If there is any vendetta involved, it would be against the insatiably greedy politicians, “(sa mga) ganid at walang kabusugan sa pera ng mamamayang Pilipino.“
3. Sen. Lacson already made peace with Speaker Arroyo. They shook hands while taking part in the bicameral conference committee meeting to tackle the National ID bill in May 2018.
4. Sen. Lacson made it clear that while he has “forgiven all my tormentors for the past nine years under (Mrs. Arroyo’s) administration,” and that he and Mrs. Arroyo are at peace with each other, “there’s no saying I will not also [criticize her] kung may nakikitang against my advocacy.”
5. Sen. Lacson has also spoken out against other personalities involved in pork and other wrongdoing, even those who he considers friends.
6. Sen. Lacson raised questions about the post-ratification tweaks made by the House leadership to the budget bill because such an action would violate the 1987 Constitution‘s Art. VI, Sec. 26, Paragraph 2: “Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto SHALL be allowed.” Thus, having Senate President Vicente Sotto III sign the bill with the post-ratification tweaks would have made him prone to being charged for falsification.
7. In the case of the post-ratification tampering by the House leadership of the DOH’s HPEF funds – where Speaker Arroyo’s allies got P25 million while those who did not vote for her got just P8 million, Sen. Lacson got his information from House members who noticed the discrepancy. Sen. Lacson would also learn later that P72.319 billion was slashed from the DPWH’s MFO 1 and 2, which covers the administration’s “Build Build Build” program. The projects under the MFO (Major Final Output) had already been planned and vetted.
❌FAKE: “There is nothing unconstitutional or illegal in the House leadership’s post-ratification ‘itemizing’ of the 2019 budget.”
1. The House of Representatives’ talking heads are obfuscating the issue to confuse the public that they merely “itemized” what was discussed and adopted in the bicam, when in fact, they actually “realigned” several items which do not at all reflect the agreed provisions incorporated in the bicameral report.
2. There was a net increase of P95.1 billion in the House of Representatives’ realignments, including a slashed P72.319 billion from the DPWH’s Major Final Output 1 and 2. The House leadership also rearranged/realigned P79.7 billion from several congressional districts to the other districts, and parked P70 billion after removing them from 87 district engineering offices to the DPWH central office in a veiled effort to conceal large “pork insertions” of some congressmen.
❌FAKE: “The Senate slashed funds for ‘Build, Build, Build’ and other programs when it ‘unilaterally’ removed funds such as P17 billion for right-of-way projects for the 2019 budget of the DPWH.”
1. During the deliberations on the 2019 DPWH budget, Sen. Lacson raised the matter of RROW appropriations, including its implementation. It was during the interpellations that the DPWH disclosed, through Senate finance panel chairperson Loren Legarda, that there are still funds for RROW from its FY 2018 appropriations that have yet to be utilized, and the DPWH said it does not need P20 billion for 2019. Thus, Sen. Lacson submitted as an amendment to reduce the DPWH RROW budget.
2. It is the House leadership that threatened to cripple the “Build, Build, Build” program when it slashed P72.319 billion from the DPWH’s Major Final Output 1 and 2.
3. A full list of the institutional amendments Sen. Lacson proposed to the budget may be found here.
❌FAKE: “Retired military and uniformed personnel may not get their pension increase this year because the Senate slashed the Pension and Gratuity Fund for 2019.”
1. The Pension and Gratuity Fund allocation in the 2019 budget is P117 billion, higher than the P108.9 billion that was actually used in 2018. The PGF budget for MUP pension in 2019 is P77 billion, higher than the P71 billion in 2018.
2. If there is any shortage in the 2019 PGF, the President is authorized under the Constitution to augment it from other sources like the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF), which has P43 billion in unused funds as of December 2018.
3. Sen. Lacson sought to increase the Pension and Gratuity Fund in the 2019 budget by P876.42 million to fund the additional P15,000 increase in old-age pension of 4,869 senior veterans. Also, Sen. Lacson and Sen. Gregorio Honasan II co-authored the Senate Joint Resolution authorizing the increase in the base pay of military and uniformed personnel in the government, and for other purposes. This was approved as Joint Resolution No. 01, signed by President Duterte.
4. The cut in the 2019 PGF under the Special Purpose Fund by the Senate finance committee under Loren Legarda was due to unutilized funds in last year’s allocation: In 2018, P122.2 billion was allocated for PGF but P13.3 billion of this was not used.
5. The Department of Budget and Management announced the release of pension requirements of retired MUPs under the AFP-GHQ, PNP, BFP, and BJMP in June 2019. “Accordingly, the recently released amounts already include the adjustment of the pension of the retired MUPs as indexed to the base pay scale of MUP in the active service covering the period June to December 2019 based on the available funds as certified by the Bureau of the Treasury,” the DBM said. The DBM said appropriations have been released for the legislation: P29.9 billion for the AFP-GHQ, P21.7 billion for the PNP, P1.9 billion for the BFP and at least P731 million for BJMP.
❌FAKE: “Sen. Lacson has ‘pork’ too, having proposed his own insertions to the 2019 budget.”
1. What Sen. Lacson proposed were institutional amendments, which pertain to programs and projects that have undergone planning and vetting, and are based on requests from the implementing agencies concerned. Such amendments are proposed by lawmakers who find merit in them after vetting with the relevant agencies. Sen. Lacson posted a list of his institutional amendments online, in the spirit of transparency. He has also challenged fellow lawmakers to do the same.
2. In contrast, individual amendments pertain to projects based mainly on lawmakers’ intervention and are considered legislators’ pet projects. In most cases, these do not involve consultations with the implementing agencies concerned, nor are they part of the Local Development Plans of the Local Government Units.
❌FAKE: “Sen. Lacson says he is against pork, yet favors lump sum appropriations, as shown by his suggestion to President Duterte during their meeting in Malacanang last March 12.”
1. Sen. Lacson never approved of lump sum appropriations. In fact, he expressed his strong dissent and disgust over it in a privilege speech he delivered, moments before the Senate voted on whether to ratify the bicameral report on the budget bill last Feb. 8. Sen. Lacson also did not sign the bicam report, and dissented when it was presented on the Senate floor for ratification.
2. What Sen. Lacson suggested during the March 12 meeting was that the budget bill as ratified by both houses last Feb. 8, even if it contains lump sums and has no itemization yet, be the one enrolled, so the President can itemize or do line-item veto, to comply with the 1987 Constitution.
3. The Senate cannot agree to the version of the budget with the post-ratification tweaking, because it violates the Constitution’s Art. VI Sec. 26 Paragraph 2: “Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed.”
4. Sen. Lacson’s suggestion was favorably endorsed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Finance Secretary Dominguez III to President Duterte as a practical and logical approach to break the impasse, especially when Sen. Lacson informed the President about the House of Representatives substantially slashing the P72.319-billion DPWH appropriations for the agency’s MFO1 and MFO2 (Major Final Output), which will have negative implications on the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program. This is contrary to Rep. Castro’s claim that Sen. Lacson’s suggestion did not sit well with the President.
❌FAKE: “Sen. Lacson wants President Rodrigo Duterte to fail.”
1. As early as 2016, Sen. Lacson has said he wants President Duterte to succeed “because like him and most Filipinos, I also love my country.”
2. Sen. Lacson has repeatedly pointed out the post-ratification tweaks by the House leadership to the budget bill will render it unconstitutional.
[back to THE ISSUES]
* Is the new Senate building really a waste of funds?
* Did the P8-plus billion for the Senate building eat into the budgets of schools and hospitals?
* Was the move to relocate the Senate a matter of ‘ego’?
❌FAKE: “The new Senate building is a waste of funds.”
1. The Senate is investing in a new permanent home that is green (environment-friendly), secure, functional and iconic. With the building, the Senate will have its own headquarters, instead of having to pay rent for several more years, not to mention the prestige and dignity in the eyes of the other parliaments in the world.
2. The Senate has been paying rental fees to the GSIS and SSS since 1996. It has been paying some P171 million per year for a “cramped, worn-out” legislative building. The cost of the lease payments have become enough to construct an iconic, permanent Senate building.
3. The dignity of the iconic building might bring about a new era of dignified members just like the Senate of the olden days. With much help from the voters.
❌FAKE: “The P8-plus billion for the Senate building ate into the budgets of key infrastructure like hospitals, schools, roads and bridges.”
1. As shown by the events surrounding the 2019 budget, it is PORK that has hampered the implementation of many key projects as funds for projects are funneled to pet projects of favored lawmakers.
2. In the case of the 2019 budget, the House leadership was found to have slashed more than P72 billion from the budget of the DPWH’s Final Major Output 1 and 2, potentially affecting the implementation of key infrastructure projects.
❌FAKE: “The move to relocate the Senate is for egos of members of the current Senate (17th Congress).”
1. The new Senate building is not for any member of the present Senate. It is for the future generations of legislators and the Filipino people, just like other iconic landmarks that symbolize our culture.
2. The new Senate building is designed to accommodate more than 60 senators, in the event that the shift to federalism pushes through.
3. Since 2000, several attempts were made to find a permanent home for the Senate.
4. The Supreme Court is also taking similar steps to move to a new home, also in Taguig City.
[back to THE ISSUES]
* Was Sen. Lacson’s PARR post a political favor from then President Benigno Aquino III?
* Did Sen. Lacson mismanage funds for Yolanda victims?
* Did Sen. Lacson tolerate former DILG Sec. Manuel Roxas II’s handling of the Yolanda situation?
❌FAKE: “Lacson got the PARR post as a political favor from then President Benigno Aquino III.”
1. By no means was the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) a ‘favor.’ Instead, Yolanda/Haiyan was one of then Secretary Lacson’s hardest tasks: to harmonize assistance from the public and private sectors, both local and international, to provide much-needed help for those affected by the disaster – but with severely limited actual powers. Memorandum Order 62 that created the OPARR limited the agency’s implementation powers to “proposing funding support” and “oversight” over government agencies involved in actual implementation.
2. On the same day he took his oath, Sec. Lacson argued with the President during a Cabinet meeting, on the involvement of the private sector. Sec. Lacson insisted on tapping the private sector since big, especially publicly listed firms will not risk their reputations by abandoning their chosen projects; then President Aquino was against it, invoking accountability as a major issue. “I strongly believed that government could not do it alone, and I wanted to succeed in my assigned task,” Sec. Lacson recalled.
3. Even after the OPARR under Sec. Lacson managed to consolidate an 8,000-page Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan that detailed institutional arrangements and public-private partnerships within six months, very little budget support was appropriated to help those in the affected areas. “Were it not for the invaluable help from the non-government sector, the environment at the OPARR would have been a sure formula for failure,” Sec. Lacson said.
4. “The nature of the task prompted well-meaning friends to ask me if I felt like a fool in accepting a job without first seeking the commensurate powers and authority from the President, quite similar to the near absolute power and authority of Pak Kuntoro, Indonesia’s rehabilitation czar who rebuilt Bandah Aceh from the ruins of the December 2004 tsunami,” then Secretary Lacson recalled.
5. Despite the lack of commensurate authority to the major task, Sec. Lacson said he accepted the job because of the humanitarian factor. “If this were a war mission, I would have definitely asked how much firepower and logistics I had at my disposal before accepting. But since it was for a purely humanitarian cause, such questions, such demands become irrelevant.”
❌FAKE: “Lacson mismanaged funds for Yolanda victims.”
1. In the first place, no funds passed through Sec. Lacson’s office, both from home and abroad. Memorandum Order 62 mandated the PARR to unify government and other agencies’ rehabilitation and recovery efforts, but limited its implementation powers to “proposing funding support.”
2. The lack of funding affected the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery itself. Wages were delayed by at least six months. OPARR staff had no workplace until Sec. Lacson’s friends offered them one.
❌FAKE: “Lacson tolerated former DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas II’s handling of the Yolanda situation.”
1. Sen. Lacson merely sought to disabuse the public of accusations that then Sec. Roxas abused public funds meant for Yolanda victims, because it never happened.
2. The funds for Yolanda were handled by the DBM.
[back to THE ISSUES]
❌FAKE: “Lacson’s son is into cement smuggling.”
1. The claim was made by ex-BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon a day after he was mentioned in a privilege speech by Sen. Lacson that detailed irregularities in the Bureau of Customs.
2. There is no such thing as cement smuggling as cement is not subject to Customs tariff and duties. An online tool of the Tariff Commission indicated Portland cement has zero tariff in the ACFTA, a free trade area between China and the 10 ASEAN member states including the Philippines..
3. Despite his accusations, Faeldon has not lodged any charge against Lacson’s son, indicating Faeldon was trying to divert public attention from the irregularities when he was BOC Commissioner.
4. Faeldon and several others were haled by Lacson before the Ombudsman for economic sabotage, over a rice smuggling case in Cagayan de Oro in 2017.
[back to THE ISSUES]
❌FAKE: “Lacson was allegedly then Vice President Joseph Estrada’s link to then Calauan (Laguna) Mayor Antonio Sanchez – who was convicted for the 1993 rape-murder of Eileen Sarmenta and murder of Allan Gomez – for jueteng payoffs.”
1. During his stints in the Philippine Constabulary and Philippine National Police, Lacson adopted a “no-nonsense, no-matter-who-gets-hurt kind of a campaign” against jueteng. He went hammer and tongs against such operations, even if he earned the ire of local officials of the provinces where he was assigned – and later, even then President Estrada himself.
2. Lacson rejected bribes from jueteng operators, and instead continued to go all-out against them – including during his short-lived stint as Laguna police provincial commander.
❌FAKE: “Lacson tried to exonerate then Mayor Sanchez from rape-murder charges.”
1. There was no attempt by the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission’s Task Force Habagat under Lacson to exonerate Sanchez. “Pag nag-iimbestiga kami, hanggang ngayon pag nag-iimbestiga ako, wala akong tina-target. Kung anong takbo ng investigation, we go by the evidence.”
2. Lacson said their investigation showed Sanchez “was equally guilty with the other primary suspect who was cleared by the other investigating unit and DOJ.”
❌FAKE: “Lacson headed the alleged rubout of Kuratong Baleleng gang members in 1995.”
1. Lacson could not have headed the operation. At the time, he headed the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission’s Task Force Habagat, which was part of a bigger composite team formed to neutralize the syndicate that pulled off bank robberies and kidnapping in Metro Manila.
2. The case was dismissed in 1999. It was “reopened” in March 2001 during the Arroyo administration, but a Quezon City court dismissed the multiple murder charges in 2003. No less than the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the case in November 2012.
❌FAKE: “Lacson masterminded the killing of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito.”
1. Lacson had been the target of the Arroyo administration’s harassment since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took the presidency in 2001. The charges were based on the testimony of ex-Police Col. Cezar Mancao II. In denying these allegations, Lacson pointed out the Office of the President had pressured Mancao to sign the affidavit.
2. The Court of Appeals withdrew the murder charges in February 2011, saying Mancao was “not a credible and trustworthy” witness. In 2015, Mancao admitted he was “pressured” by the Arroyo administration into implicating some personalities. He apologized to Lacson, admitting he had no personal knowledge on his supposed involvement.
3. The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the Court of Appeals in dismissing the double murder charges against Lacson. In November 2011, it denied with finality the Dacer family’s motion for reconsideration.
❌FAKE: “Lacson was the main protector of Chinese drug cartels and did not avail of his pork barrel allotment because he did not need it. He was investigated by the US Drug Enforcement Agency.”
1. There has never been an investigation against Lacson by the US DEA.
2. Lacson had been the target of the Arroyo administration’s harassment since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took the presidency in 2001. This was one of several false claims made against him by the Arroyo administration and its allies.
3. Jeffrey Wendling, the US DEA agent assigned in the Philippines at the time, was all praises for Lacson in a speech he delivered during a despedida tendered by then Ambassador Francis Ricciardone at the US Embassy’s Chancery on May 5, 2003. Wendling, in his speech, cited several instances where the US DEA conducted joint operations with Lacson starting in 1993, when he headed the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission’s Task Force Habagat and to his term as Philippine National Police chief and as head of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force.
At the event were then ISAFP chief Victor Corpus and the late NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco. Both were red in the face upon hearing the good words of Wendling, with Corpus hurriedly leaving upon hearing that part of his speech.
4. In June 2003, Lacson was also invited to a dinner-meeting with foreign police attaches in Manila, including the deputy country attache of the US DEA in Manila. Others at the meeting included attaches from Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan. Mark Connell, acting US DEA country attaché, and Daniel Cruz, US DEA resident criminal investigator, were also among those who were at the regular gathering of foreign police attachés. Had Lacson indeed been involved in any form of criminal activity, he would never have been invited to that dinner meeting.
❌FAKE: “Lacson kept fabulous amounts of wealth in US bank accounts.”
1. Lacson dared his accusers to show proof of such accounts, and that if they could indeed find any bank account in his name, they can have it. None have come up with such proof to this day.
2. Had Lacson maintained such accounts, he should have attracted the attention of anti-money laundering authorities in the US, and cases should have been filed against him then. No such case has been filed.
[back to THE ISSUES]
Apology from Ex-ISAFP chief Victor Corpus in 2017:
1. In April 2017, Corpus made a long overdue apology on a talk show on the Global News Network, saying he was taken for a ride by Angelo “Ador” Mawanay, who himself had retracted his claims in 2004. “This grievous mistake that I have committed maligned the reputation of Sen. Panfilo Lacson. With this grave error on my part, I humbly and sincerely offer my public apology to Sen. Lacson and his entire family,” Corpus said.
2. Lacson accepted the apology and appreciated Corpus’ gesture of humility and courage, adding in a statement that “(i)n the spirit of fairness and balanced reporting … it is but proper and decent for those who relied heavily on their statements, as the central characters responsible for incessantly maligning my reputation to follow suit, or at least make amends, not pecuniarily, but simply to restore the moral damage they have done to my dignity and honor.”
Apology from the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2019:
1. In May 2019, the Inquirer published an apology for several opinion column articles of its former columnist Ramon Tulfo in July 2001. The articles involved:
– the alleged misdeeds of Sen. Lacson while he was an officer of the Philippine Constabulary, based on the confession of self-confessed hitman Francisco “Kit” Mateo
– the alleged multimillion-dollar account of Sen. Lacson in US banks, which was based on an intelligence report submitted to then Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo by then chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) Col. Victor Corpus.
2. The Inquirer noted Mateo recanted his confession before he died of colon cancer in January 2001, while Corpus admitted his only source for his intelligence report was Ador Mawanay, who turned out to be a fraud. As such, the Inquirer said it “sincerely apologizes for the published articles based on testimonies of persons that turned out later to be false.”
3. Lacson accepted the apology. In a tweet, he lauded the PDI for its “humility and courage to admit I am not the person you said I was.” He added: “Getting back my honor and dignity matters a lot to me. It is with equal humility that I accept your apology.”