Lacson bares new kickback scheme using ‘parked pork’
Some legislators have found a new way to earn commissions or kickbacks from congressional pork after a P10-billion pork barrel scam was exposed several years ago, according to Sen. Ping Lacson.
This involves “parking” large amounts of pork in the allotments for certain “well-connected” lawmakers who then offer the extra money to districts that are so not well-funded, on condition that the legislator making the offer chooses the contractor for their projects, Lacson told Inquirer.net on Friday.
“That’s the new scheme,” he said.
“Big amounts of pork are parked in a legislative district of a well-connected congressman. Then he/she offers to share portions of that parked pork to other congressmen with very little or no pork allocations with the understanding that the choice of contractor remains with the former,” he said.
The congressman who accepts the offer benefit from the arrangement through the project for his or her district “while the one who owns the pork gets the commission,” Lacson said.
“In an investigator’s mind like mine, the only logical conclusion for retaining the contractor as a precondition to divert his allocation to another district is ‘commission’ or kickback from the contractor,” he explained.
Lacson said these “well-connected” congressmen and senators obtained allocations “in the B’s (billions) even if they know their absorptive capacity is limited because they know they can offer portions of their pork” to other legislators.
He said he learned about this “pork parking” scheme from a “congressman friend.” A senator’s staffer offered to this congressman’s staffer P200 million worth of infrastructure project for his district “with the condition that the senator has the choice of contractor.”
“In fairness to the senator, he might not know what his staff was doing or negotiating,” Lacson quickly added.
The congressman declined the offer “because he can’t be sure of the quality of the project” and he would be blamed for any poor construction by his constituents, he said.
Lacson declined to identify the senator. The congressman said he didn’t want to be named but agreed “that the truth about the ‘parked pork’ be told,” he said.
“I hope more lawmakers who don’t benefit monetarily at least come out and denounce this scourge that refuses extinction in spite of the (Supreme Court) ruling, not to mention the numerous cases pending with the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan and other courts,” Lacson said.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2013 to ban the pork barrel, then known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund, after a scam to funnel about P10 billion to ghost projects and massive kickbacks for lawmakers was exposed by the Inquirer.
Lacson said this pork parking arrangement was confirmed by Sorsogon Rep. Deogracias Ramos Jr., who said some party-list representatives requested to “park” their funds in his district.
Letters from 3 peers
In an interview with Inquirer.net last week, Ramos said P1 billion and P800 million were alloted to him separately in 2018 and 2017 but could not remember what amount was given in which year.
“They lodged the money with the regional office (of the Department of Public Works and Highways [DPWH]),” he said.
Ramos added that he had received letters from three party-list representatives informing him that they were releasing funds separately to his district next year amounting to P500 million, P200 million and P75 million.
The lawmaker said he was inclined to accept the funds for the sake of his district, which, he noted, was among the poorest in the country.
“There wasn’t anything in exchange,” he told Inquirer.net on Friday, adding that the DPWH Region 5 was in charge of the contractor.
But Ramos is not the only legislator who may have been offered projects by their fellow lawmakers, Lacson said.
“Of course there are others,” he said.
“It’s unthinkable that a district can absorb P4 or P5 billion worth of infra projects, but somehow, they insert or realign large sums to their districts because they are after the commissions more than the projects,” the senator added.
Lacson’s latest exposé followed his recent disclosures of alleged large pork allocations for some leaders of the House of Representatives. —WITH REPORTS FROM JULIET LABOG-JAVELLANA ANG PATHRICIA ANN V. ROXAS
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