Lacson calls on colleagues to bare amendments in 2020 budget bill
Robie de Guzman • November 5, 2019 • 137
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday challenged his fellow lawmakers to bare the amendments they made to the proposed 2020 national budget following his allegations that billions-worth of “pork” funds were “parked” in the budget bill.
Lacson said such a show of transparency would dispel suspicions that the amendments are stained with “pork barrel” funds.
“We should make everything public. That includes all amendments we submit, whether institutional or individual,” Lacson said in an interview on DZBB radio.
“Most if not all lawmakers have their own websites. Why not post their amendments there, for the public to scrutinize?” he added.
Lacson lamented that in previous years, some lawmakers submit their amendments to their respective finance or appropriations chairpersons without having them go through floor deliberations.
“Instead of having their amendments undergo scrutiny in-floor deliberations, some lawmakers propose their amendments verbally, or even scribble them on napkins,” he said.
The lawmaker said that during Congress’ deliberation on the 2019 budget, he used his website to post his proposed institutional changes.
Institutional amendments pertain to programs and projects that have undergone planning and vetting, and are based on requests from concerned implementing agencies.
Lacson said such institutional amendments are proposed by lawmakers who find merit in them after vetting with relevant agencies.
Individual amendments, meanwhile, pertain to projects based mainly on lawmakers’ intervention and are considered legislators’ pet projects.
“In most cases, these do not involve consultations with the implementing agencies concerned, nor are they part of the Local Development Plans of the Local Government Units,” Lacson said.
He added that such programs can be considered pork barrel, based on the 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court that deems as unconstitutional projects that are “whimsical and arbitrary.”
The 2013 Supreme Court ruling declaring pork barrel as unconstitutional covers “all informal practices of similar import and effect, which the Court similarly deems to be acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”
In pushing for transparency in the national budget, Lacson said people have the right to know where their taxes are going, especially amid the country’s growing debt that now stands at more than P7.9 trillion.
“The national budget involves the people’s money. It should benefit the people and not a few senators or congressmen or even government officials who implement projects. And the budget is funded by our taxes, as well as borrowings if our tax collections fall short,” he said.
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said the proposed 2020 national budget signed by the congressional bicameral conference committee is still tainted with pork barrel.
In a statement, Lacson noted that “bad habits are indeed hard to break,” as he revealed some of the budget insertions allegedly made by the House of Representatives before the bicameral conference committee approved the report on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.
“It is revolting to note that legislators keep on dipping their dirty fingers on our national budget in spite of pending cases involving the same issue,” he said.
The senator said he did not attend the signing of the report on the budget bill which was held during a meeting at a hotel in Makati City.
He mentioned that one reason why he skipped the meeting was because his office received a USB containing two files – the “Source” file and the “List” file – from the Lower House on Tuesday night.
“Our preliminary scrutiny of the last-minute insertions made by the House would indicate that the Source File is the list of 1,253 budget items worth P83.219B that was apparently used as the congressmen’s ‘source’ of their ‘list’ of 742 projects worth P16.345B that were inserted in the bicam report that was signed by both panels this morning,” he said.
“Since there is no preliminary explanation from the House regarding the two files, we cannot ascertain if indeed only P16.345B or the bigger amount of P83.219B was inserted at the last minute prior to the bicam signing,” he added.
He continued with: “What is clear, though, is that there are still lump sums and vaguely described projects that are now part of the bicam report.”
Lacson said that their initial check of the files showed that the top provinces with huge allocations include:
Albay – P670M
Cavite – P580M
Sorsogon – P570M
Batangas – P502M
Bulacan – P440M
Pangasinan – P420M
Cebu – P410M
He also claimed that 117 flood control projects worth P3.179-billion dominated the insertions, “with eight projects uniformly budgeted at P60 million each.”
“There are more corruption-driven insertions in the Files sent to us that I have not mentioned. Thus, we will continue to diligently scrutinize it and inform the DBM and the Office of the President as I have high hopes that President Rodrigo Duterte will again display his aversion to corruption,” he added.
“Pork is here to stay. I hope the President will again exercise his political will in vetoing line items that will obviously waste people’s tax money,” he further stated.
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has filed a bill seeking the creation of the Philippine Judicial Marshal Service that would secure the officers and personnel of the judiciary.
In filing Senate Bill 1209, Lacson said it is high-time that Congress ensures the protection of incumbent judges and justices “so they can do their jobs independently and without fear of retaliation.
The lawmaker said no less than Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta emphasized the need for judicial marshals to serve as the law enforcement arm of the Court, similar to the Supreme Court of the United States Police and United States Marshal.
Lacson noted that in the last two decades, at least 31 members of the judiciary were reportedly, five of which happened during the Duterte administration.
“This legislative measure seeks to create a Philippine Judicial Marshal Service under the control and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court whose primary function is to protect, safeguard, watch over, provide security, and ensure the safety of justices, judges, court officials and personnel, and the various halls of justice, courthouses and other court buildings and properties all over the country,” he said in his explanatory note of the measure.
“Further, said Marshal Service shall likewise, have the authority to conduct threat assessments and undertake investigations of crimes and other offenses committed, including potential security threats,” he added.
The bill also mandates the Philippine Judicial Marshal Service to investigate allegations of irregularities, including graft and corruption, committed by justices, judges, court officials and personnel.
“The Philippine Judicial Marshal Service shall likewise assist in the execution and implementation of court orders,” the bill states.
The service shall be headed by the Chief Marshal, who shall have the same rank of a Court of Appeals associate justice. Assisting the Chief Marshal are three Deputy Marshals – one each for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Each Deputy Marshal shall have the same rank as a Regional Trial Court judge.
The measure requires the Chief Marshal and Deputy Marshals to be a lawyer and must have been at least a full Colonel in the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police.
Both officers shall be appointed by the Supreme Court en banc and shall serve until age 65.
An initial funding of P50 million from the National Treasury will be appropriated for the wages and other expenses of personnel, and for supplies and equipment.
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson believes that Vice President Leni Robredo should justify the need to reveal her findings during her short stint as the co-chairperson of the inter-agency committee on anti-illegal drugs (ICAD).
“Kung gagawin ganoon lalong lalala, ang wedge lalapad. It’s her call. Kailangan justify niya rin,” Lacson told reporters at the Senate on Monday when asked for comment on Robredo’s statement.
“But sa akin I don’t think it’s still necessary. What for? Dahil binigyan ka ng katungkulan na gagampanan mo, ngayong natanggal ka, isisiwalat mo ang mga natuklasan mo?” he added.
The senator said if the information will help improve the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, then Robredo should reveal it “by all means.”
“Depende sa anong isisiwalat niya. If it is to destroy or impede ang anti-illegal drugs campaign, huwag naman sana,” he said.
“Pero kung natuklasan niya para ma-enhance ang fight against illegal drugs, then by all means,” he added.
Lacson also said that if Robredo plans to divulge mistakes that would make some people criminally liable then she should have done it while she was still holding the post.
“Pero kung may nakita siyang pagkakamali that would point to several persons that could be held criminally liable, dapat noong nasa position siya,” he said.
The vice president earlier vowed to remain determined to end the killings under the government’s war on drugs despite her termination as ICAD’s co-chairperson.
She also promised to report to the public some information about the drug war and her recommendations.
Over the weekend, Malacañang confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte has fired Robredo in response to the opposition’s dare to remove her from post due to lack of trust.
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