SENATOR Panfilo Lacson is not alone in his fight against the supposedly continuous existence of “pork barrel” in the budget.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd was one of the two senators who informed Lacson during deliberations on the proposed 2017 national budget that they were among those who did not submit a project proposal to be funded by the budget.
Lacson earlier claimed that some members of the Senate and the House of Representatives were given up to P300 million and P5 billion respectively in projects, which he considered as “pork” or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC).
Like Lacson, Sotto said he believes that there was “pork” in the budget and it is the reason why he decided to abstain from voting in favor of ratifying the 2017 budget in plenary last December 14.
He added he did not submit any proposed project because he does not want the people misinterpreting it as “pork barrel.”
“I don’t want my countrymen, especially the people who voted for me, to misinterpret anything. So I’d rather not submit than having to explain things in the future,” Sotto said in a phone patch interview with Senate reporters.
Senate President Franklin Drilon earlier admitted that he submitted his proposed project he wants to be funded in the 2017 national budget but insisted that there is nothing illegal about it.
Drilon explained that since the proposal was made before the passage of the General Appropriations Act (GAA), it is not against the ruling of the Supreme Court that prohibits post-enactment intervention by lawmakers.
The Senate majority leader said he supports Lacson in his interpretation on what “pork barrel” really is and that lawmakers should not be involved in the identification of projects in the national budget before or after its enactment.
“Now, whether it’s [interpretation]is correct or not, I rather avoid submitting proposals and I don’t want to support it either because our countrymen might misunderstand it,” he added.
It was through the efforts of Lacson that the P8.3-billion allocation in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways was realigned to the Commission on Higher Education to provide free college education to students who will enrol in state universities and colleges or SUCs this school year. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA