MANILA, Philippines — As he prepares to leave the Senate, Sen. Panfilo Lacson decides once again to return to the national treasury—and for the last time—his pork barrel fund in the amount of P200 million.
In a letter to Sen. Franklin Drilon, Lacson asked that his share of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, for 2012 be made available to President Aquino for his anti-corruption campaign and “good governance advocacies.”
Lacson wrote Drilon, the latter being the chair of the Senate finance committee.
The President and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad received copies of the letter.
Allied with the President, Lacson is completing his second consecutive term of office on June 30. He is reportedly being groomed to head an anti-crime body yet to be created by Aquino. (Under the Constitution, a senator temporarily retires from his Senate seat after two consecutive six-year terms. He may run for another Senate seat after a complete term shall have passed.)
Senators receive a PDAF of P200 million per year, while members of the House of Representatives receive P70 million.
The funds are allocated by Congress in the annual national budget submitted by the President. The PDAF is intended to finance projects of a senator or representative for the benefit of their constituents, but it has become a source of corruption resulting in substandard or ghost projects.
Lacson, who was first elected to the Senate in 2001, has refused to accept his pork barrel from the start.
The previous Arroyo administration found a way to channel Lacson’s PDAF to its priority programs, prompting the senator to ask the Senate to explicitly allocate his PDAF to debt service payments.
Lacson refused to accept his PDAF even after President Aquino brought it up with him in 2011.
“Didn’t he refuse in the past to take his PDAF? I told him the PDAF was being managed and spent well and asked him whether he was interested in the entitlement,” Aquino had said.
But Lacson didn’t budge, sticking to his “standards” not to accept the PDAF, the President said.
During his entire stint in the Senate, Lacson has called for the abolition of the pork barrel, noting that it “had corrupted legislators.”
“(The pork barrel) is always the source of criticism. It is always the source of corruption (in Congress),” Lacson has said.
As a neophyte senator, Lacson admitted to receiving bribe offers from people interested in his pork barrel, but he turned them down.
“I told myself, so be it. I am sure I will earn the ire of my colleagues but never mind…I believe lawmakers should not build roads, you know. We should make laws,” he had said.
Apart from the PDAF, a lawmaker gets a share of the huge infrastructure budget of the corruption-tinged Department of Public Works and Highways.
Instead of abolishing the pork barrel, however, former Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. wanted the funds pooled and used to finance big-ticket projects like a national railway system.