Rift over 2020 budget intensifies despite truce
Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Friday reiterated that the supposed “ceasefire” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri forged with leaders of the House of Representatives would not bar him from scrutinizing the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.
“First of all, ceasefire or not, I cannot stop exposing any form of abuse involving the national budget,” Lacson said.
Upping the ante, Lacson’s office made public a letter sent to him by Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, who had demanded the senator apologize for his accusations against the House leadership.
Zubiri earlier said that leaders of both chambers of Congress have agreed to a truce in the ongoing verbal tussle between Lacson and several House members, who ganged up on Lacson after he claimed that the House tried to allocate P1.5 billion in pork for each of Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano’s 22 deputies.
Lacson, a crusader against the pork barrel system, said the aborted plan would have also given P700 million worth of projects for all district representatives.
“As far as Castro is concerned, I’m done with him after my office released his… ‘lobby-letter’ addressed to me for a P258-million project in Capiz, which he averred as ‘fictional’ with a straight face when I first mentioned it,” Lacson said in a text message to the Inquirer.
“It has become clear who has the propensity to lie,” he added.
In his Sept. 19 letter, Castro asked Lacson for “financial assistance” for the construction of a new municipal building in Dumalag town, Capiz province, amounting to P258 million.
On Friday, Castro said Lacson misrepresented his request.
“Lobbying is different. My letter-request shows my resolve to help my constituents. It’s not pork barrel,” he said.
“I am disappointed that the good senator does not know to distinguish pork barrel from a letter-request or better still a letter-request from lobbying,” Castro said.
The new round of accusations occurred just as Zubiri and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez met on Thursday and agreed to put a stop to the word war.
“We agreed to have a ceasefire because individual members of the Senate and the House (of Representatives) who criticize one another do not represent the institution,” Zubiri said.
Alleged pork insertions
The ceasefire was called in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the delay in the approval of the 2019 budget, which took more than four months as the Senate, the House and the Cabinet tussled over alleged pork insertions.
Amid the supposed ceasefire, Deputy House Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. on Friday took a swing at Lacson for his “political hatchet job” against the House.
“At first we were puzzled why Lacson would come out with his fabricated allegations. 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.
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