, 2012 (TRIBUNE) By Angie M. Rosales - Corruption by lawmakers
in the use of their so-called pork barrel continues to take place even under the stewardship of President Aquino, a political ally in the Senate bared yesterday.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who made the disclosure, said there are at least two legislators he knows who have been “negotiating” a 10 to 15 percent alleged com-mission from contractors.

The senator, however, refused to name names, saying that he is still in the process of collating all the needed information and intends to report this out to Aquino himself for proper action.

It was unclear why Lacson was baring these accusations without the evidence to susbtantiate these charges, as he himself admitted that he still has to confirm the reports he has received on this alleged commission-taking by the legislators whom he did not even identify even whether they are senators or congressmen.

Lacson said despite the straight path being advocated by the Aquino government, the practice of taking commissions on the projects continues.

I’ve been receiving reports that I have yet to confirm but getting 10 percent commissions is now the norm from, 15 percent in the past after (Public Works and Highways) Secretary (Rogelio) Singson (photo) reduced cost estimates on his agency’s projects.

So when the estimated cost is reduced, flexibility for corruption is also brought down.

He knows that it is a practice in the DPWH that if the cost estimate is high, the funding that goes to the project becomes small since the leeway for kickbacks is wide, Lacson said.

Lacson said: “I’ve been talking to several contractors and they confirmed that Singson brought cost estimates to bare bottom based on the specifications of the projects.

“But I’ve been receiving reports that some officials still demand commissions of 10 percent to 15 percent, and contractors usually haggle now for a 10 percent commission,” Lacson said.

So it is actually a conspiracy between government people and contractors. I asked Singson during the budget deliberation if the DPWH had corrected its computations and when he knows that a project is overpriced, the estimate is correspondingly lowered. This was confirmed with several contractors I had a chance of talking with,” he added.

While the Supreme Court has ruled that there’s nothing illegal with the pork barrel system, the devil remains in its implementation, according to Lacson.

In the implementation of projects coming from the pork barrel allocations, the practice of giving big commissions remains a problem.

“When I conducted my own research in 2001 when I first became senator I found out how a senator can abuse P200 million or how a congressman pockets P70 million annually, there were a lot of ways to abuse the allocations and the commission would go as high as 60 percent to 80 percent, leaving practically nothing for the project,” he said.

The corrupt practices are more rampant in so-called soft projects, which is the purchase of books and medical supplies as opposed to hard projects which involves infrastructure, Lacson added.

The level of commission depends on the degree of insatiability among congressmen or senators, he said.

That is the same reason I have continued to refuse to accept pork barrel since corruption in its use is public knowledge and I would be a suspect just the same in getting commissions if I use it.

“So to me, to make it clear, I decided not to accept pork barrel,” Lacson said.

Lacson added that to show his commitment against abuse in the use of the pork barrel, he has filed cases against public officials.

He did not name the officials against whom he claimed to have filed cases.

Lacson claimed that he had rejected overtures from President Aquino for him to relent and use his pork barrel for good projects.

“He said ‘I understand your position.’ So the P200 million that is supposedly allocated to me now goes to savings and will go back to the National Treasury.”

He also recounted that a senator tried to persuade him to transfer the pork to the official.

“I intend to report this incident to the president, I believe in his campaign to clean up the government. So I’d like to put it to a test by reporting this to him but I’d like to get full details,” he said

“We’ll need testimonies, somebody, maybe the contractor, or someone privy who will testify. If not, then there will be no evidence. When I did my own research, negotiations on the project happened on the corridor of the House. It did not come from me, it came from in-depth investigative work of journalists. There is no sophistication anymore. If they meet on the hallway, the transaction happens there,” he said.


Palace plan to buy new presidential jet blasted

TWO lawmakers on Thursday opposed the government’s plan to buy a new presidential plane to replace the 30-year-old Fokker 28 being used by President Benigno Aquino III.

Reacting to the Budget Department’s plan, San Juan City Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito said there were more important things to spend money on, especially after the damage wrought by tropical storm Sendong in Mindanao.

Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, who is also a member of the appropriations committee, agreed, citing the more pressing need for relief and rehabilitation in Mindanao.

“The government [can buy] a new presidential plane—but not just now,” he said.

Still, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said he saw nothing wrong with buying a new plane as long as the transaction was transparent.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad had earlier said the department intended to allot funds for the new presidential plane, noting that the Fokker 28 was too old and the President “cannot be renting planes all the time.”

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he approved of the plan to buy a new plane for Mr. Aquino.

“I will support a supplemental budget for it if necessary,” he said in a text message, noting that he had even suggested it to the President.

The F-28 “Fellowship,” with a total flying time of 5,525 hours, was manufactured by the now-defunct Fokker Aviation BV based in The Netherlands. It came off the factory floor in 1979 and was bought by the central bank for $15 million for use by then President Ferdinand Marcos.

The central bank then donated the plane to the Office of the President on Dec. 26, 1995, after which the plane was turned over to the Air Force in May 2006. Maricel Cruz

Philippines Presidential Transport: THE FOKKER F28 - The 250th (Presidential) Airlift Wing of the Philippine Air Force has the mandate of providing safe and efficient air transport for the President of the Philippines and the First Family.

On occasion, the wing has also been tasked to provide transportation for other members of government, visiting heads of state, and other state guests.

The fleet includes: 1 Fokker F28 which is primarily used for the President's domestic trips and it is also called "Kalayaan One" when the President is onboard; 4 Bell 412 helicopters; 3 Sikorsky S-76 helicopters; 2 Aérospatiale SA-330 Puma helicopters; 1 Sikorsky S-70-5 Black Hawk; a number of Bell UH-1N Hueys; as well as Fokker F-27 Friendships.

For trips outside of the Philippines, the President uses the Presidential aircraft of the Philippines,
a Bombardier Learjet 60 or charters appropriate aircraft from Philippine Airlines.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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