Smart lawmakers got as much as P1B in pork, says Lacson | Inquirer News

Smart lawmakers got as much as P1B in pork, says Lacson

/ 01:18 AM October 27, 2013

Some lawmakers are smarter than others and those who are can get as much as, or more than, P1 billion in additional pork barrel during congressional budget deliberations, according to retired Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

In a speech on Thursday night, Lacson recalled how in 2006 he played “killjoy” as his colleagues discussed how they could partake of billions of pesos in additional pork the senators had slashed from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s P38-billion proposed lump-sum funds.


During his 12-year stint in the Senate, Lacson refrained from using his P200-million-a-year pork entitlement under the P25-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the budget, citing its reputation as a source of kickbacks for unscrupulous lawmakers.

“The smarter ones manage to wrangle as early as during the committee hearings held to tackle the budgets of departments and agencies. Likewise during plenary debates, when questions are addressed by individual legislators to the heads of the different agencies through the budget sponsors,” Lacson said in a speech before the Philippine Constitution Association, one of the petitioners before the Supreme Court against the Aquino administration’s controversial multibillion-peso Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).


“If you ask me how much, all I can tell you is that the monies are carefully parked in the budgets of some departments and agencies whose heads are willing coconspirators in the schemes or scams. The amounts realigned or inserted range from a few hundred million to even over a billion pesos for the smart,” he said.

Critics also see the DAP funds as pork barrel because of the discretion given to legislators to identify projects that will be funded from the DAP, sourced from alleged savings of the executive branch to which legislators are given access to, ostensibly to help in accelerating spending.


Minimum amounts

Lacson said the PDAF of P200 million per senator and P70 million per House member under the proposed budget are the minimum amounts of pork that lawmakers could access for their projects.

“I said minimum because every year, just before the period of amendments of both chambers, small and big group caucuses decide how much each member would get as additional pork, usually at least P100 million more for senators,” he said.

The second tranche of how much more comes just before the bicameral conference committee meetings, “traditionally referred to as the third and most powerful chamber of Congress,” he said.


“The pork barrel system is ugly, more often than not cruel, sometimes merciless toward the people we all swore to serve and protect when we took our oaths of office,” Lacson said.

“I learned of it with my own eyes and with my own ears. I’ve known about it firsthand. I participated and objected to it in caucuses and during plenary debates on the Senate floor, even in bicameral conferences,” he said.

Lacson recalled how at a Senate caucus in 2006, senators decided to slash a substantial portion of Arroyo’s P38-billion Special Purpose Fund.

“But that was only the good part. The ugly side, and I loudly objected to it, was to, hold your breath, reallocate the deducted amount to the pork barrel of legislators, P300 million each [per senator] in addition to the regular P200-million pork barrel,” Lacson said.

“Without my knowledge, they held a second caucus on the same subject,” he said.

Without him knowing, the senators decided to reduce the proposed additional pork for themselves to just P200 million per senator from the initial P300 million, he said.

Cayetano siblings’ move

According to Lacson, one day that same year, then Pateros-Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano requested through Lito Banayo, a former political adviser of deposed President  and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, “that I allocate P50 million to Taguig out of our additional P200 million from the realigned Special Purpose Fund.”

“Apparently, Congressman Alan got wind of the information from his ate (older sister),

Sen. Pia Cayetano,” Lacson said.

“I lost no time in confronting the finance committee chair and the Senate President, and threatened them that I would go to town on that issue and would not stop interpellating on the Senate floor all the way to the period of amendments until the P4.6 billion in additional PDAF of 23 senators disappears from the proposed GAA (General Appropriations Act).”

“A few more intervening events transpired afterward but, to make a long story short, the P200-million additional pork for each of the 23 senators did not materialize. Needless to say, I was the bad, killjoy, corny kontrabida,” Lacson said.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano was an ally of Lacson’s in the opposition against then President Arroyo.

Amid the current raging controversy over the misuse of pork barrel funds, Cayetano has repeatedly defended his use of the PDAF and additional allocations, claiming that they actually went to real beneficiaries of his projects.

100 pork stories

He said he knew of “a hundred more stories of similar nature, done collectively and individually to fatten individual pork barrel allocations, from the committee hearings to the period of amendments, all the way to the bicameral conferences.”

“More than 10 years ago, on March 11, 2003, I delivered a scathing privilege speech on the Senate floor, unequivocally calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system,” Lacson said, referring to the system as “a virus of corruption that must die.”

He said the speech “was an appeal to the conscience of my colleagues or, at the very least, their sense of shame.”

According to Lacson, he was bracing for an extended interpellation from his colleagues and was ready to defend his position.

None came, as then Senate President Franklin Drilon adjourned the session shortly afterward.

From that time on, Lacson said he continued to forego the P200-million yearly share of pork.

Now pork-averse

Drilon, who’s now Senate President again, has since called for and filed a resolution on the abolition of the PDAF in the face of the P10-billion pork barrel scam scandal.

Cayetano, now the Senate majority leader, has said all the incumbent senators wanted to eliminate the pork barrel.

They, however, have yet to decide how to do so—whether to deduct the senators’ share of P4.8 billion from the P2.268-trillion proposed 2014 budget or realign the funds to government agencies or programs.

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TAGS: DAP, Disbursement Acceleration Program, Gloria Arroyo, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Panfilo Lacson, PDAF, Ping Lacson, Pork barrel, Pork Barrel Fund, pork barrel scam, Priority Development Assistance Fund
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