Pork bloats national budget
Lawmakers are keeping their graft-ridden pork barrel in the approved national budget for 2017, with some congressmen getting allocations of P1.5 billion to P5 billion each and senators P300 million each for their pet projects, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson also disclosed that not only was the P8.55 billion in pork barrel “returned” but P497 million was also added to the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), as gleaned from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2017.
A total of P8.55 billion was earlier transferred from the DPWH to the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) at the insistence of Lacson and other lawmakers to allow free tuition for students in state colleges and universities this year.
Adding an equivalent amount, along with half a billion pesos, to the DPWH budget for this year, according to Lacson, became possible through drastic cuts in the calamity fund.
He believed that the realignments in the DPWH budget were pork allocations—something he tried to remove, albeit not all, during the budget deliberations in Congress last December.
“What is sad here is the thought of sacrificing the victims of calamities for political favors and alliances,” he said on Wednesday.
He said he had learned that during budget deliberations, some congressmen were given pork projects amounting from P1.5 billion to P5 billion.
Pork barrel funds are drawn from the national budget to finance projects identified by congressmen and senators. These are sources of kickbacks for lawmakers.
“Change is coming? Maybe, but it’s pork allocations changing hands from the Liberal Party congressmen to those from Mindanao,” he said.
Lacson said each senator was also asked to give a list of projects worth P300 million but he, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Francis Pangilinan did not submit a list.
“I am not stupid. Filipinos are not stupid. They are just resigned, I think. After all these years that I and my staff scrutinize the budget books year in and year out, I know pork when I see it,” he said.
Lacson earlier vowed to go to the Supreme Court to question the pork allocations that were left in the 2017 national budget after studying it carefully to see if it violated provisions in the high court ruling that deemed the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court declared the PDAF, a pork barrel, unconstitutional in 2013.
President Duterte signed the budget law last Dec. 22 despite an appeal made by Lacson for him to veto items that the senator suspected were pork allocations.
Pork allocations, according to Lacson, were usually “parked” in the budgets of government agencies like the DPWH.
During the budget deliberations, he questioned the transfer of P8 billion from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the DPWH budget and said this was in violation of the ARMM Organic Act.
With the help of senators, Congress reallocated the P8 billion to CHEd.
In text messages and a statement he later issued, Lacson said he and his team were able to find out the DPWH budget increase when they checked the 2017 budget law on the website of the Department of Budget and Management.
He said he and his team would “diligently scrutinize” the 2017 budget once they get hold of the budget books.
Lacson said the realignments in the DPWH budget saw its budget increasing by P9.054 billion to P454.721 billion.
He said the increased DPWH budget came from cuts in the budget of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF) or Calamity Fund under the Special Purpose Fund.
In total, he said the NDRRMF budget was reduced by P21.5 billion in the GAA.
Lacson said he was certain these realignments in the DPWH were pork.
He noted that congressmen from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, who were then asking him to reconsider his proposal to remove the P8 billion from DPWH, had told him that they only had P1.5 billion in projects compared with others who had P5 billion each.
Lacson recalled a conversation with at least two senators, who upon learning the pork projects of congressmen, told him that senators were only given P300 million each.
“By the way, I did not submit my P300-million list of projects. Senators Tito Sotto and Kiko Pangilinan approached me on separate occasions to inform me that they too did not submit,” Lacson said.
He said he did not know who among the other senators did not submit their lists.
“There is no saying here that those who identified their projects in the 2017 national budget, both from the Senate and the House, would get commissions from contractors. What I’m trying to say is, Filipinos are made to believe the PDAF is dead after the Supreme Court ruling in 2013,” Lacson said.
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