Pork for 60 House members unlawfully cut, Lacson fumes
Leaders of the House of Representatives unlawfully altered the P3.8-trillion spending bill that Congress had already ratified by cutting the pork allocations of some 60 congressmen, Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged on Friday.
Lacson, in a text message to the Inquirer, said the alteration was “not only unconstitutional” but also “violative of the legislative process.”
“This is what I consider anomalous and tantamount to abuse of discretion and violative of the Constitution,” he said. “For how can the Senate President and Speaker certify that they are enrolling [a bill] approved in plenary when it is not?”
“Whatever it is, these are things that they do for greed. It’s a shame and revolting, to say the least,” he said in a separate statement.
Lacson, who has consistently opposed the pork barrel system, previously disclosed that Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. were among the biggest recipients of pork allotments in the spending measure approved by the House.
He later said that some of his fellow senators entered into reciprocal concessions with certain House members to protect their own pork allocations that amounted to P23 billion.
According to Lacson, the information that House leaders ordered the cuts to pork appropriated to at least 60 lawmakers came from several of their colleagues.
He said that, apparently, this was the reason why the approved national budget had not been submitted for President Duterte’s signature two weeks after it was adopted by the Senate and the House on Feb. 8.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno recently said that they expected to receive the enrolled budget bill on March 1.
Who ordered changes?
“I have it on good information that the House leadership is still waiting for several congressmen to finalize the submission of their individual projects,” Lacson said.
Asked who could have ordered the changes in the ratified spending bill, he said: “The congressmen-sources indicated no one else but the House leaders.”
“These reports are yet to be validated. What is certain, though, is the undue delay caused by the still-to-be-submitted list of individual projects by some congressmen,” he said.
“If that isn’t pork, I don’t know anymore what is,” he added.
Different from ‘insertions’
Lacson said the projects that the House members wanted funded were different from the “insertions” that they already introduced during the budget deliberations.
These, he said, violated the 2013 decision of the Supreme Court outlawing the pork barrel system, which is officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund.
“While, technically speaking, it may not constitute postlegislation enactment since the President has not yet signed the budget measure, we can see clear abuse of discretion, especially if done without the concurrence of the Senate,” Lacson said.
“This latest caper that the House leadership is trying to pull off may also constitute violation of the 1987 Constitution,” he added.
Lacson said he intended to closely check if the final version of the national budget that would be transmitted to Malacañang was the same as the one that Congress approved.
“That is, if we still have the time for it,” he said.
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