Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, a staunch anti-pork barrel advocate, does not like the name ‘’pork hunter’’ ascribed to him.
‘’I don’t like it. I’m just doing my job,’’ Lacson said as he disagreed with Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III who had presumed ‘’regularity’’ on the “institutional amendments’’ by the House of Representatives (HoR) on the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB or national budget) after the House recently passed the measure on third and final reading.
Lacson and Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon had cited some P326 billion ‘’lump sum’’ appropriations tucked in the proposed P666-billion budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Both cited a Supreme Court decision that lump sum appropriations are unconstitutional. Lump sum appropriations are suspected as ‘’pork barrel’’ appropriations.
Lacson has been on the prowl every budget season, picking out suspected pork barrel appropriations in the GAB.
The Senate is expected to receive from the House a soft copy of the budget on Oct. 28.
Asked during an ANC interview if he believes a statement of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco that there is no pork in the GAB, only institutional amendments, Lacson replied: ‘’We have yet to see the transmitted copy of the GAB as approved on third and final reading, as transmitted to the Senate.’’
‘’Until we see that, we cannot really tell or say if there’s pork or not in the House of Representatives version of the budget.’’
On a query whether amending budget after third and final reading is unconstitutional, Lacson said: ‘’That is clearly unconstitutional.’’
‘’It’s very clear, there’s no other interpretation in that provision under the Constitution that after the third and final reading of any bill, including the GAB, no amendment shall be allowed thereto,’’ he said.
‘’I don’t see any other interpretation of that particular provision. So since they already passed on third reading the HoR version of the GAB, I see no reason why they will allow a small committee to introduce further amendments. Based on what I heard from Rep. Eric Yap, the Appropriations committee chairman, he said the amendments will not be coming from the congressmen but from the agencies,’’ he stated.
‘’Again, that’s another violation. We have a four-phase budget process. Budget preparation, authorization, execution, and accountability. We are now in the authorization phase. And only the Congress of the Philippines is allowed to participate in the authorization phase. Tapos na ang sa (the) Executive department (has completed its job in the) preparation phase. Ang execution, after napirmahan ng Presidente ang enrolled bill and when DBM starts disbursing allocations, doon mag-start ang execution. So agencies under the Executive branch cannot be allowed to participate in the authorization phase of the budget process.
Sotto had said that he would presume regularity after the House made institutional amendments worth P20 billion, including P5.5 billion, for COVID-19 vaccines.
Lacson stressed that amendments to the budget by the House small committee is unconstitutional.
‘’To say there’s presumption of regularity, I think it’s misplaced. If that is the output of the small committee and they will include these amendments in the USB drive they will transmit to us on Oct. 28, then we cannot presume regularity, with all due respect to my Senate President…because if it is based on an unconstitutional act, I cannot presume regularity,’’ he added.