Lacson: Graft worsened after Napoles pork scam
MANILA, Philippines — For Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the conviction of Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, cannot be considered a victory because corruption in the government has not stopped and continues unabated.
“In fact, it has gotten worse,” Lacson said a day after the Sandiganbayan convicted Napoles, former Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Constantino Jaraula, and several former government employees for graft and malversation of public funds.
After a five-year trial, the antigraft court handed down its second conviction related to the pork barrel scam on Napoles The first one was in 2018 in a case where her coaccused Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. was acquitted.
“During the time of Napoles, P500 million in kickbacks was already considered huge. Now, transactions are going by the billions,” he said.
Lacson, who has been seeking the abolition of the congressional pork barrel system since 2003, said the case for which Napoles was convicted was only the tip of the iceberg.
“Have we solved the problem of ensuring public funds are used properly instead of going to the pockets of corrupt people? Can we be sure projects are free of bribery and other forms of corruption? These are questions that we must ask ourselves, and we can easily verify the answers—it takes two to tango,” he said in a radio interview.
During deliberations on the 2021 national budget, Lacson exposed how lawmakers managed to sneak in billions of pesos for public works projects that were marred by irregularities.
“Indeed, postenactmentfund insertions have been avoided, but somehow [corrupt officials still] found ways to insert funds for their pet projects,” he added.
Lacson had repeatedly slammed the “juggling” and “insertions” in the 2021 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which received an additional P28.3 billion even after he had flagged irregular projects that were again sought to be funded next year.
Lacson voted against the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the P4.5-trillion spending program, including the P694.8-billion DPWH budget, which increased the P666.5 billion originally proposed by the executive department.
The senator lamented that while many have been charged for the pork barrel scam, this did not stop lawmakers and agency officials from perpetrating other corrupt practices.
“Many cases remain pending—before the Ombudsman, the Sandiganbayan, and even up to the Supreme Court. We have not really seen the totality of this problem,” Lacson said.