House leader calls Lacson hypocrite for pork insertion claims
A House deputy minority leader on Friday tried to turn the tables on Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, calling him a “hypocrite” for allegedly throwing a monkey wrench into the bicameral discussions on the proposed P3.8-trillion budget for 2019 by accusing House leaders of allocating P160 million in pork to each lawmaker.
But Rep. Anthony Bravo drew a rebuke from Lacson, who dismissed his remarks as “pathetic assertions.”
Bravo, of the Coop Natcco party-list group, suggested that Lacson’s allegations might be motivated by revelations that senators had inserted their own amendments amounting to billions of pesos in the proposed budget.
“If the amendments come from the House, Senator Lacson brands them as pork. But if the amendments come from the Senate, they call it institutional amendments. What a hypocrite!” Bravo said in a statement on Friday.
He read his prepared statement at a press briefing, belatedly changing “What a hypocrite!” to “What an icing!”
On Thursday, Lacson said the districts or constituencies of each House member would be getting a total of P160 million, not just the P60 million promised by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Bravo insisted that such allocations could not be considered pork, as these were line items, and not post enactment lump sums.
Pork, which finances the pet projects of lawmakers and is a source of kickbacks, has been outlawed by the Supreme Court, but some lawmakers say they still exist in different forms in the national budget.
“According to Senator [Loren] Legarda, she and Senator Lacson are in agreement that these congressional allocations are not pork. Now we are confused with Senator Lacson’s sudden turnaround,” Bravo said.
“Is his reversal because it was found that he also inserted secret amendments in the national budget?” he said.
Lacson reminded the party-list lawmaker that he had already called out his fellow senators for wanting to keep P23 billion in “individual amendments” or “insertions” that may be regarded as pork.
“If (Bravo) intended to be truthful about his statements, he should not have skipped my revelation about the P23 billion insertions made by a number of senators,” Lacson said in a text message to the Inquirer.
“Instead of flatly denying that each congressman now has entitlements of P160 million each, billions (of pesos) more for some selected few, he has chosen to ascribe motive to my long-standing advocacy against the pork barrel system,” he added.
Lacson also said on Friday that of the P23 billion that had been inserted by some senators into the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways the single biggest allocation, P3.3 billion, went to just one province, which he declined to identify.
“The P3.3-billion projects may involve more than one senator but are lumped in just one province,” he told Inquirer.net.
These projects, he said, include flood-control structures, national and local roads, water management, multipurpose facilities, bridges, feasibility studies, and road right of way.
He said his latest disclosure was meant to warn lawmakers making budget insertions “that if they cross the red line, and no matter how subtly they did it, they can still be found.”
The Senate and the House are in conference talks on the 2019 budget but the discussions have been stymied by disagreements over amendments introduced by each chamber.
House appropriations panel chair Rolando Andaya Jr. earlier said the Senate had put in more than P190 billion worth of amendments in the general appropriations bill compared to only P51 billion on the part of the House.
The House contingent, which includes Bravo, wanted its Senate counterpart to itemize their amendments since they only submitted “lump sums,” leading to a stalemate and prompting a threat from Senate President Vicente Sotto III to pull out the budget bill.
“The senators, including Senator Lacson, have long kept secret their individual amendments to the national budget. They have long hidden that from the people,” Bravo said.
“We are not sure if the Senate really wants the budget to be passed on time. The Senate President is pushing for a reenacted budget. Senator Lacson is throwing a monkey wrench to the bicam discussion,” he added.
He said the House did not want a reenacted budget.
“We want a new budget—one that is transparent, with clear accountability and responsive to the needs of the people,” Bravo said.
Lacson said the Senate had “set the guidelines and marching orders” to its contingent in the conference talks where a smaller group headed by Legarda and Andaya was trying to iron out differences.
“It cannot be the business-as-usual practice of simply ramming down our throats whatever the (Senate and House) agree upon,” he added.
The senator said the P160 million allocated for each House member was “simply too much and unacceptable.”
“Multiplied by 300 congressmen, that’s easily P48 billion, not counting their members who are getting billions (of pesos) more,” Lacson said. —WITH A REPORT FROM MAILA AGER
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