Sotto: ‘Pork’ in budget was why I abstained from ratification
Aside from Senator Panfilo Lacson, another senator believes that there were “pork” allocations inserted in the P3.350 trillion national budget this year.
“Tingin ko meron e, kaya nga ako nag-abstain e (I do think so, that’s why I abstained),” Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said in a phone patch interview with Senate reporters on Thursday.
“Tsaka kaya hindi rin ako nag submit ng mga listing ko, ng mga listahan ng gusto kong projects sapagkat baka ma-misinterpret na pork barrel e,” he added.
(And that’s also why I haven’t submitted my listings, my list of preferred projects, because it might be misinterpreted as pork barrel.)
Sotto was the only senator who abstained from voting when the Senate ratified the 2017 budget last December 14. Seventeen senators voted to ratify the budget while two—Lacson and neophyte Senator Sherwin Gatchalian—cast negative votes.
Lacson earlier disclosed that some congressmen had been given up to P5 billion “pork” allocations while senators had been allowed to identify up to P300 million worth of projects. Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon submitted a list of projects but said it was subject to approval of Congress and the President.
Sotto said he agreed with Lacson’s position that lawmakers should not be involved in the identification of projects either before or after the approval of the national budget by Congress.
“Let me put it this way, I’m one with Senator Lacson on the issue of the correct interpretation of what pork barrel is. Now, whether it’s correct or not, yung interpretation nya or correct or not yung interpretation noong ibang mga kasama namin sa Kongreso, mapa congressman or mapa senador, ang iniiwasan ko kaya hindi ako nag submit (ng list of projects) at ayokong gumamit at ayoko rin namang suportahan yung ganun, kasi baka hindi maintindihan ng mga kababayan natin.”
(Let me put it this way, I’m one with Senator Lacson on the issue of the correct interpretation of what pork barrel is. Now, whether it’s correct or not–his interpretation, or those of our other colleagues in the Congress, whether congressmen or senators–what I am avoiding so I didn’t submit a list of projects, and why I don’t want to use that or to support that, is because our countrymen might not understand it.)
“I don’t want my countrymen, especially the people who voted for me, to misinterpret anything. Kaya (So) I’d rather not (submit a list of projects) so that I have no explaining to do,” he added .
In 2013, the Supreme Court declared the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” funds unconstitutional.
Whether or not his own view of “pork” conforms with the SC’s decision, Sotto said, identifying certain projects during the budget process would be subject to interpretation of the people.
“And that’s the reason I shunned it, that’s the reason I avoided it, para safe ako, wala akong eeksplika, walang misinterpretation sa akin (so that I’m safe, no explaining to do, no misinterpretation in my case),” he said.
Sotto could not confirm, however, if the amount of projects allotted to each senator was indeed P300 million.
“During some of the talks, may naririnig ako na may mga amendments na P200 million, P300 million tapos kung mga amendments mo ay to that some effect, kung tutuusin nga, napakababa ng amendments na yun compared to the amendments of the House, parang ganun ang mga kwento lang,” he said.
(During some of the talks, I heard of amendments amounting to P200 million, P300 million, and that if your amendments were to that effect, it would seem like a small amount compared to the amendments of the House, that’s how some stories went.) CDG/rga
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