Sotto, Lacson bare P20M ‘lobby money’ from a congressman
MANILA, Philippines —Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III on Tuesday confirmed returning P20 million “lobby money” from a congressman in exchange for the passage of a franchise bill.
It was Senator Panfilo Lacson who first revealed about the lobby money that the congressman allegedly sent to Sotto’s office.
“Maybe I should disclose this,” Lacson, who is known for his anti- pork-barrel crusade, said in an online interview, recalling the time when Sotto spoke about the lobby money.
“There was a time, I think this was during the last Congress na merong nagpadala sa office nya (Sotto) ng sabihin nating pera na lobby money from a congressman. Hindi ko na babangitin kung sino dahil mayroong pending na measure, legislative franchise actually na pending sa plenaryo,” he said.
(There was a time, I think this was during the last Congress that lobby money was sent to his office from a congressman. I will no longer mention the name because there’s a pending measure, legislative franchise actually which is pending in the plenary)
At that time, Lacson said Sotto had just assumed his post as Senate president.
Lacson said he was then telling Sotto about his pro forma letter to applicants in case someone misrepresents him or his office on his vote on their franchise applications.
It was at this point that Sotto mentioned the lobby money that his office had received from a congressman. he added.
“Actually kaya rin kita kinausap kasi hindi lang naman ako maka-decide kasi hindi naman para sa akin lang ito. Inindicate na para sa, hindi lang sa kanya,” Lacson recalled Sotto telling him. “So sabi ko ako ang position ko is isauli natin, kasi meron nga akong ganyang sinusunod na pansariling panuntunan.”
(That’s why I also talked to you because I can’t decide since this is not just for me. There was an indication that the money was not just for him so I told him, my position is let’s return it because as I’ve said I’m following a certain rule here)
“Sabi nya ganun din talaga nasa isip ko, so isinauli namin…” added Lacson, further noting that he called the president of the company seeking a franchise to inform about their decision to return the money.
(And then he said that’s also what’s on his mind, so we returned it.)
Sotto, in a text message, confirmed Lacson’s story.
“Twenty (20) million,” Sotto said when asked how much was the “lobby money’ sent to his office.
Asked if this thing still happens in the current Congress, the Senate leader said: “Wala na. Nadala na sa amin siguro.”
Lacson explained he was not casting aspersions on anyone but simply saying these things happen in lawmaking.
“And hindi lang naman sa mga franchise bills kundi mga ibang legislative measures na maiinit ‘yung debatehan. Alam mo may mga lumalapit talagang ganyan and it’s not once or twice na nag-decline kami or even nagsauli pa nga nung ganyan…” he added.
(And this is not only on franchise bills but also on legislative measures that are hotly debated. You know these things really happen and it’s not just once or twice that we declined or even returned it)
Lacson also recalled another incident when a lady, carrying a bag supposedly containing P10 million, wanted to see him at the Senate while they were discussing a tax measure on the floor.
The senator said that according to his staff, the lady wanted to see him in his office “even for two minutes.”
“She was carrying a bag. I told my staff not to mind her and that I wasn’t going up for it…I found out later na P10M daw ‘yun…” the senator said in a text message to reporters.
Lacson said he also immediately informed the corporate head that he did not accept “whatever it was that was being delivered” and that he would vote on the tax bill fairly.
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