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Pork joust heats up

Mario J. Mallari



House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. and Sen. Panfilo Lacson are on a collision course over projects that legislators identified in the 2019 budget, as Lacson maintained the P60 million in allocation to each of the 297 members of the House of Representatives is a form of “pork barrel” with some “lucky ones” dividing among themselves an extra P2.17 billion.

Lacson dismissed Andaya’s claim that the allotment from Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did not violate the 2013 Supreme Court (SC) ruling that declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional.

“If it looks like pork, chopped like pork, disbursed like pork, then it must be pork,” Lacson said. “They cannot fool our people.”

The senator said apart from the P60 million each for all House members, some favored congressmen stand to divide among themselves P2.17 billion more “pork.”

“They excised P20 billion from the P51.792 billion realignment (from the Department of Public Works and Highways) in the proposed national budget and appropriated P60 million to each of their 297 members, probably more to a blessed few since a simple computation tells me there is an excess of P2.17 billion,” Lacson said.

“If that isn’t pork, tell me what is,” he added.

Read SC ruling

Lacson called on Andaya and other House members to just read the entire Supreme Court ruling outlawing the “pork barrel.”

“The definition of ‘pork’ is not just post legislation versus pre-legislation,” Lacson said.

He cited the SC decision stating “all informal practices with the same import and effect that the Court deems to be acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of discretion are also declared void.”

“What is the implication of giving P60 million to each of the congressmen? Is there no grave abuse of discretion to that kind of practice?” Lacson asked.

Senators in it too

On the allegation by some congressmen that senators also get P200 million in allotment, Lacson said, “As far as the Senate, I know that several senators submit their individual amendments for projects. How much? I have no idea, although I’m sure it is not a uniform P200 million each.”

“I am also sure I have none, since I do not avail myself of such kind of amendment or insertion,” he stressed.

Andaya insisted referring to the allotment as pork barrel was “erroneous.”

“These are not pork barrel funds declared illegal by the Supreme Court,” Andaya said.

“Ordinary citizens from all districts have the right to enjoy the benefits of projects that were funded by their taxes. They have the right to enjoy the fruits of their taxes,” he added.

Andaya said as long as the fund is dedicated to a specific purpose, these do not require post enactment measures and is participated in by the Congress as a legislative body and not by individual members, then it can be allowed.

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