Senator Panfilo Lacson could no longer make things worse with his “discoveries” of insertions in the proposed national budget for 2021.
The truth is we were all warned about them months ago when several lawmakers made a buzz about the seeming bias and favoritism of former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano in granting more funds to his allies.
Those were pork barrel funds parked in government agencies, but mostly in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) where they probably hoped they would go unnoticed.
They were seen. Right away.
Negros Oriental 3rd Dist. Rep. Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. rocked the House hearing on the DPWH budget for 2021 when he disclosed the P10 billion with Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) for projects in the congressional districts of Taguig and one in Camarines Sur.
Teves and several other lawmakers questioned the fund. They asked why some of their colleagues were getting more while the rest have far less.
That question did not only rock the House, it also released a lot of steam among rival congressmen.
A pair nearly came to blows.
Another pair challenged each other to a gun duel.
The worst — or best — that came out of that controversy over the inequitable (if not illegal) distribution of funds and projects was that it woke up the House that it was badly managed, with transactional politics besmirching whatever was left in the body’s reputation.
It took just weeks for Cayetano to get ousted.
He was exposed as a liar and one who could not keep his word, even that made before the President.
Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco was elected as the new House Speaker after Cayetano was dislodged by a great majority.
His election was no longer based on his “gentlemen’s agreement” with Cayetano made before President Duterte. It transpired due to a necessity to effect genuine change in the House.
But Cayetano had left the House in shambles.
Velasco had only four days to correct the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) before it was printed and submitted to the Senate for Lacson and his peers to review.
Lacson had milked the budget issue since he got hold of a copy of the GAB.
It has always been his advocacy to expose what he sees as anomalies in the GAB. Next year’s is no different.
Lacson, however, is silent on Cayetano as he is silent about Velasco. He always points to the House of Representatives whenever he wants to rub the insertions on the other lawmakers’ skins.
We must also remember that the Senate has a deal to construct its own building at the BGC in Taguig City. They won’t call it Cayetano country for nothing.
While we welcome Lacson’s noise as it is necessary to guard where our taxes go, we should also give the House — under Velasco’s leadership — its chance to defend its version of the budget, and straighten whatever needs corrections.
Deputy Speaker and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza could not be wrong when he said the House could not cleanse the budget prepared for months by Cayetano’s team in all four days left for Velasco to correct it.
Issues pertaining to the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget can be settled during the bicameral conference committee — meaning between representatives of the Senate and House.
It can be threshed out there, and that all Lacson’s comment was “fairly noted” by the House leadership.
Probinsyano Ako Rep. Jose “Bonito” Singson Jr. stated that “many — if not all — items in the GAB” pertaining to infrastructure projects allocated in every district were finalized by Cayetano, echoing Atienza’s statement that “four days are not enough.”
“That’s a very short deadline,” Singson said.
“The previous House leadership is in a better position to explain the allegations of unfair distribution of budget and double insertions,” Teves reiterated.
“So, go ask Alan,” he suggested.
Lacson isn’t expected to do that, of course.
But he does not have the monopoly of the microphone, either.