Lacson: Pork easy to see
After exposing a scheme to get kickbacks from pork barrel parked in the budget, Sen. Panfilo Lacson urged fellow lawmakers to continue to scrutinize proposed spending bill amendments to stop the practice.
“We can clearly see that huge amendments were introduced by a senator, and these consist mostly of infrastructure projects that were not consulted with the agencies,” Lacson said in an interview.
He said the finance committee chair should have realized that these amendments could pave the way for legislators to earn kickbacks from infrastructure projects.
Lacson earlier claimed that some lawmakers offered other legislators pork funds allotted to their districts on the condition that they got to choose the contractors.
He said he learned of the scheme from a congressman, who claimed that an aide of a senator offered some P200 million worth of projects so long as the senator got to choose the contractor.
Lacson on Saturday declined to identify the senator or his staff member but urged the identification of other congressmen who might have been approached by the staff member.
“We need to know the other congressmen the staffer approached. I suppose [the congressman] is just one of the people approached,” he said, adding that he could not ascertain if the senator knew what the staff member was doing.
“I would defer to the congressman because he is the one with personal knowledge, but I have no reason to doubt his story,” he said.
He also said he could not say if the senator knew about what the staff member was doing.
Other senators, though, said they hoped Lacson would disclose the identity of the staffer and the lawmaker he or she worked for.
Interviewed over radio station dwIZ, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Lacson should reveal the name of the staff member, otherwise everybody would fall under a cloud of suspicion.
As for the issue of parked pork funds, Drilon said this meant that there was a need to study and debate on each item added to the budget.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III also said the identity of the staff member should be disclosed.
“If I were the senator and my staffer does that, I would kick him out at once,” Sotto said in another radio interview.
He also said Lacson could inform the senator about the activities of his staff member.
The Senate is not yet done with interpellation on the proposed 2019 budget because of the late submission of the House of Representatives.
It has yet to discuss in plenary the allocations for the Department of Public Works and Highways, which is believed to contain funds for lawmakers’ pet projects.
The Senate expects to approve the budget bill when sessions resume in January, meaning there would be a reenacted budget for the first month of 2019.
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