LACSON: 'PORK' TICKING BOMB READY TO EXPLODE; REVEALS 'PORK' DEALS AMONG LAWMAKERS
Former senator Panfilo Lacson said he realized the controversial mechanism (PDAF) “was a ticking bomb ready to explode in our faces.”
MANILA, OCTOBER 28, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Marvin Sy - Confronted by images of his fellow legislators wheeling and dealing among themselves for share in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during budget deliberations, former senator Panfilo Lacson said he realized the controversial mechanism “was a ticking bomb ready to explode in our faces.”
“The question, when it would happen was the only thing I thought was uncertain. I had a practical reason for believing so,” he said recently in a speech before the Philippine Constitution Association.
“In this material world, satisfaction is a myth. It is greed that is real. It has now exploded,” Lacson said.
Each senator is allocated P200 million annually in PDAF while a congressman receives P70 million.
Lacson, who had never availed himself of his PDAF allocation, said he saw first hand how legislators would discuss among themselves ways to increase their respective allocations.
“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 should come just before the bicameral conference committee meetings, traditionally referred to as the third and most powerful chamber of Congress,” Lacson said.
It’s in bicameral conference meetings where representatives of the Senate and the House try to reconcile any conflicting provisions in their respective versions of the budget measure. Most of these meetings were held behind closed doors.
“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 heads of the different agencies through the budget sponsors,” he added.
Lacson said funds are parked in the budgets of the different government agencies “whose heads are willing co-conspirators in the schemes or scams.”
“The amounts realigned or inserted range from a few hundred millions to even over a billion pesos for the smart, diligent and well-connected legislators of both houses,” he said.
Lacson cited an instance in 2006 when the senators held a caucus on what to do with P38 billion in special purpose funds or lump sum items in the budget.
He recalled that there was an agreement to slash a substantial portion of the fund and realign it to the pork barrel allocation of the legislators or P300 million each.
Lacson said he objected to this during the caucus because the senators were already receiving P200 million in pork barrel funds each at the time.
Later in the same year, Lacson recalled he was approached by then Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano during a weekly gathering with other opposition politicians, businessmen, political analysts, and advertising people, who asked him to allocate P50 million of his additional P200 million PDAF to Taguig.
“Apparently, Cong. Alan got wind of the information from his ate (sister), Sen. Pia Cayetano,” he said. “From an initial P300 million in additional pork that did not materialize because of my objections, they were embarrassed by one-third so they just ended up with P200 million during a second caucus where I was not invited,” Lacson said.
He said he later confronted the finance committee chairman and the Senate president at the time and threatened to expose in the plenary the goings-on in budget discussions.
“A few more intervening events transpired afterwards, but to make the long story short, the P200 million additional pork for each of the 23 senators did not materialize,” he added.
Earlier, Senate committee on finance chairman Francis Escudero vowed to open the bicameral conference meetings to the public for the proposed P2.268-trillion national budget for 2014.
“This will be my first bicam, we will make it open. It’s a public hearing,” Escudero said.
He said there is no reason for representatives of the Senate and the House in the bicameral conference committee meetings to oppose his move since they all have nothing to hide.
‘DAP must be seen as economic stimulus’ By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 27, 2013 - 12:00am 0 3 googleplus0 0
MANILA, Philippines - With the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) still weighed down by bad image, the government said it needs greater effort in explaining the mechanism as savings and economic stimulus.
While lauding the Supreme Court’s decision not to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the DAP, the administration said it acknowledges that a more vigorous approach is needed to convince critics and the public in general that the mechanism is not pork barrel in disguise.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said over radio dzRH that discussions on the matter had branched out and gone out of control despite President Aquino’s having made it clear that the measure introduced two years ago was meant to accelerate spending and boost the economy.
Coloma said on Friday this fact seemed to have been forgotten and various interpretations had been made. He said it was important to promote understanding of the issue by providing focus on communication.
The Palace has been saying that DAP funds are simply savings pooled together and realigned to other programs and projects.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte yesterday said it was fortunate that the SC did not stop the government’s use of DAP.
She said over dzRB that a TRO could affect programs and projects of the administration and that the Office of the Solicitor General was ready to defend its legality.
Earlier, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said programs and projects under DAP would no longer go through lawmakers and that savings would just be used as calamity and contingency funds.
Aquino lamented critics’ comparing the DAP with the Priority Development Assistance Fund after the administration moved to go after those who had allegedly misused PDAF, particularly lawmakers. PDAF is the official term for the congressional pork barrel.
The Department of Justice filed on Sept. 16 a plunder complaint against businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, and Jinggoy Estrada, and two former members of the House of Representatives who allegedly collected millions of pesos each in kickbacks from PDAF-funded projects.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) also filed plunder charges with the Office of the Ombudsman against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Napoles and 23 others, including former officials of her administration, for their alleged involvement in the P900-million Malampaya fund scam.
Aquino earlier said the use of DAP is allowed under Executive Order 292, or the Administrative Code of 1987, among other laws.
The President said some agencies have to retool for good governance.
Long before the issue on pork barrel scam came out or even before the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona, the Department on Budget and Management had announced the existence of DAP.
An Oct. 12, 2011 press release of the DBM posted on the Official Gazette said, “Aquino government pursues P72.11-B Disbursement Acceleration Plan” for new, fast-disbursing projects to be funded from unused 2010 and 2011 appropriations.
In that press statement, Abad said the Aquino administration would implement P72.11 billion worth of additional projects in order to fast-track disbursements and push economic growth amid global slowdown and the onslaught of several calamities.
“While there was a turnaround in our disbursement performance in August, it was not enough. That is why President Aquino instructed his government to execute these additional projects to bolster economic growth in 2011,” he said.
He said “fast-disbursing and high-impact projects” were selected for inclusion in the DAP for 2011. These would include critical public works and agriculture infrastructure projects, housing, relocation and resettlement projects, additional funding support for local government units (LGUs), rehabilitation of rail systems, projects that support peace efforts, healthcare insurance for indigents, and human resource development training, among others.
Of the P72.11 billion, P37.92 billion was earmarked for national government agencies; P7.25 billion for LGUs; and P26.90 billion for government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCC).
Funding would be sourced from pooled savings from unused appropriations in 2010 and 2011, windfall revenue from GOCCs’ dividends, and realignments within agencies in favor of fast-disbursing projects.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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