THE pork barrel word war continues between Senators Panfilo Ping Lacson and Loren Legarda.
Senator Lacson challenged Legarda to give to the people what belongs to them in full, insisting that “pork” is the money of the Filipino taxpayers and it is the duty of Congress to ensure that it is spent properly and in full for the Filipino.
Lacson who vowed to continue fighting pork barrel insertions by his colleagues in Congress said that once he gets hold of the budget books, he will make sure that everything will be scrutinized properly.
The senator said pork barrel distorts public spending towards the benefit of its sponsors instead of benefiting the public for which it should be specifically used.
“Which is the very reason why the Supreme Court disallowed pork barrel in the budget,” Lacson said as he vowed to continue to be the watchdog and to guard against abuses in the use of public funds.
Lacson revealed that all senators including Senator Legarda, who chaired the appropriations committee, in last year’s (2017) budget agreed to realign the P8.3 billion and other lump sum appropriations in the 2017 GAA to free tuition of poor and deserving children who cannot afford to pay their school expenses.
Lacson further said that there is another P4.8 billion pork-like item in the P3.767 trillion budget for 2018 that will answer the problem in funding the law on free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs) recently signed by President Duterte.
According to Lacson, in general the so-called pork barrel is allegedly being used by some legislators who sponsor the projects to gain monetary benefits to prop up their political career.
He further explained that usually pork barrel will go to the highest commission giving contractor or project.
“Kawawa ang tao dahil niluluto sila sa sariling mantika. Pork barrel is the money of the people and we have to give it back to them without floating our names as the one giving it,” Lacson insisted.
Lacson was apparently not amused by his colleague’s earlier remark to reporters that he should point out to her the pork barrel in the P3.767 trillion GAA for next year, after she already told senators in a caucus to submit P300 million worth of pet projects.
The House of Representatives is expected to transmit its version of the 2018 General Appropriations Act to the Senate anytime soon.
But Senator Legarda said she will follow the decision of the Supreme Court and encourage Senator Lacson to elevate the issue to the SC in order to have clarity and avoid debates in the next budget hearing.
Legarda said it is vital that this issue is resolved by the SC to avoid future conflict in the budget deliberations which they do yearly.
The SC ruling banning pork barrel says that any lump sum funds which lawmakers have the discretion where to deploy after approval by Congress are considered pork barrel and violate the Constitution.