Lacson says proposed 2020 budget still tainted with pork barrel

Robie de Guzman   •   December 11, 2019   •   564

Senator Panfilo Lacson

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.

Lacson backs appointment of Villanueva as PDEA chief

Robie de Guzman   •   May 27, 2020

Senator Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday lauded the appointment of Wilkins Villanueva as the new director general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

In a statement, Lacson described Villanueva as a “good and professional officer who is fit for the job,” and noted his “long career in drug enforcement.”

“The President couldn’t have appointed a more qualified head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, having served our country for nearly 20 years with the Philippine National Police Narcotics Group and with the PDEA,” he said.

Lacson, a former national police chief, expressed confidence that Villanueva can handle his task of going after drug suspects amid challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

“With the challenge of going after drug personalities amid the new normal posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he indeed has his work cut out for him,” he said.

“I look forward to working with him, being the Senate Finance Subcommittee Chair and Sponsor of the PDEA and Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) budgets, among others,” he added.

Villanueva will take over the post previously held by Aaron Aquino, who was assigned by President Rodrigo Duterte to lead the Clark International Airport.

Prior to his designation to PDEA’s top post, Villanueva led the PDEA Northern Mindanao.

Lacson urges netizens: Stop sowing hatred against NCRPO chief over ECQ birthday get-together

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Friday appealed to some social media users to stop sowing hatred towards Metro Manila’s police chief who was embroiled in controversy after allegedly violating quarantine protocols during a “mañanita” held for his birthday last week.

Lacson said National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Major General Debold Sinas has already “apologized and regretted his indiscretion,” and that he has been “bashed, criticized and pilloried both on social media and mainstream media” for the incident.

“Whichever way one looks at it, NCRPO chief Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas set a bad example in committing what he did during his birthday ‘mañanita’ or whatever he wants to call it,” he said in a statement.

“Certainly, he should get the punishment he deserves even as the appropriate authorities are already investigating him,” he added.

“However, we may also want to take into consideration his long law-enforcement service to the country and the Filipino people, and his present efforts in supervising the checkpoints all over Metro Manila to make us safe from the coronavirus threat,” he further stated.

But Lacson clarified that his statement is “not to suggest forgiveness or absolution” for Sinas.

“Rather, it is an appeal to concerned netizens not to rub salt to injury by going to the extent of posting out-of-date photos to sow more hatred towards Sinas by exploiting the naïveté of certain individuals to join the bandwagon of hate towards the police officer,” he said.

Sinas earlier apologized for what transpired during his birthday, saying he did not intend to disobey protocols related to the implementation of the ECQ to contain the spread of COVID-19.

He also said that some of the photos circulating online were “edited and grabbed from old posts” and do not define the totality of what really happened.

The photos, earlier posted on the NCRPO Facebook page, showed Sinas handing cakes and roses during the event. A photo also showed Sinas sitting at a table with guests.

The photos were said to be taken during a party held for Sinas to celebrate his birthday. Police officers gave him a mañanita, a traditional early morning serenade, where they dine together.

The said event was met with criticism for allegedly breaking quarantine rules.

Philippine National Police chief General Archie Gamboa said he already ordered a probe into the incident.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año also said that Sinas, as a police official, should serve as an example in following protocols especially those related to the containment of COVID-19.

Lacson supports DOF bid to hire more contact tracers amid COVID-19 crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday expressed support for the proposal of the Department of Finance (DOF) to prioritize the hiring of contact tracers to boost the country’s efforts to curb the transmission of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Contact tracing is a key first step in addressing the COVID-19 threat. It should provide the baseline data or reference on who to test. Without it, our mass testing will be like shooting at the moon or running around like headless chickens,” Lacson said in a statement.

In a briefing aired earlier in the day, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III proposed to ramp up the government’s contact tracing efforts to boost efforts to stop the COVID-19 transmission and provide jobs to stimulate the economy through spending.

“Kung maipapatupad ang mungkahing ito nang maayos, maaari nating lutasin agad ang dalawang problema,” Lacson said.

The senator added that the proposal’s materialization will depend on the Department of Health.

“Ang bagay na ito ay nasa kamay na ng liderato ng Department of Health: Maiimplementa kaya nila ang mungkahi ni Secretary Dominguez?” he asked.

As of May 12, the Philippines has recorded 11,350 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,106 recovered patients and 751 fatalities.

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