Villafuerte breaks ‘ceasefire’, says Lacson maligning congressmen to make Senate look good
MANILA, Philippines—The verbal tit-for-tat between staunch pork barrel foe Sen. Panfilo Lacson and leaders of the House of Representatives continued on Friday, with one House leader accusing the senator of maligning the lower chamber to “make the Senate look good.”
Deputy Speaker for Finance Luis Raymond Villafuerte, one of at least 22 deputy Speakers, appeared to break a so-called ceasefire between Lacson, who had remained steadfast in his advocacy against pork barrel funds, and House leaders.
Lacson earlier said the House planned to give all deputy Speakers, which would include Villafuerte, an additional allocation of P1.5 billion each, while each member of the House would get P700 million under the proposed 2020 budget which Congress is now deliberating upon.
Lacson had said his information came from several lawmakers whom he refused to identify. He later said the plan was scrapped.
Several House members were his sources, according to Lacson.
“Lacson failed to be circumspect in brandishing allegations that turned out to be unsubstantiated because his personal agenda, it appears, is to make the Senate look good at the expense of the current House leadership,” Villafuerte said in a statement.
He also insisted that the senator’s recent allegation is “actually a political hatchet job” meant to damage the House as an institution.
“We thought It was a political misunderstanding, but now it has become clear that his goal is to carry out a political hatchet job against the House and its members,” Villafuerte said.
The House leader maintained that Lacson’s claims are “only hearsay and a product of imagination as it was not properly validated to be credible.”
He added that if Lacson stands by his sources, he should at least give details of when the alleged plan was hatched.
“The alleged plan as mentioned by Senator Lacson and his alleged sources never took place at any given time and venue,” Villafuerte said.
“Again it’s coming from a polluted source with the intention to malign me, Speaker Alan (Cayetano) and worse the House as an institution,” he added.
Earlier, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro demanded an apology from Lacson addressed to the House for claiming that select House leaders were to get billions of pesos each in funding for their pet projects, another traditional source of kickbacks.
Lacson, however, refused to heed the demand and saying he would not apologize nor identify his sources. Lacson has been fighting the grant of pork barrel funds to lawmakers and has himself refused to touch his pork barrel allocations.
Bickering over pork barrel funds, which have been outlawed by the Supreme Court, had been blamed for the delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget which cost the country several percentage points in gross domestic product growth in the initial months of the year./TSB
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