Bravo says Lacson holding 2019 budget hostage

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 11 2019 07:30 PM

MANILA - A congressman on Monday accused Sen. Panfilo Lacson of holding the 2019 budget hostage because of his vendetta against former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. 

This, after Lacson urged Senate President Tito Sotto not to sign the P3.7 trillion General Appropriations Bill due to alleged last-minute insertions made by Mrs. Arroyo.

In a press conference, House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Anthony Bravo said Lacson had nothing but harsh words for the former president even before she became the top House leader. 

“The way I look at it, my own assessment, Senator Ping Lacson is holding the budget hostage because of personal vendetta to our Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He has not said anything good about the Speaker from the very start of her leadership as Speaker," he said. 

Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, has been critical of former President Arroyo due to her alleged links to various corruption scandals such as the NBN-ZTE broadband deal, the jueteng payola scandal, the fertilizer fund mess, and the Jose Pidal account allegedly owned by Mrs. Arroyo's late brother-in-law, Ignacio 'Iggy' Arroyo. 

Lacson later went into hiding after a local judge issued a warrant for his arrest for his alleged involvement in the double murder of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, in November 2000.

Bravo told reporters Mrs. Arroyo had no hand in the allocation of funds. He said some congressional districts got a bigger budget “because they may have either gotten less in previous years, or they got more now because of the proposals of senators and not congressmen.”

He also said the House "did not do anything illegal" with the budget, saying lawmakers merely itemized lump sum allocations that were ratified during the bicameral conference committee. 

"Unfortunately, a portion of the appropriations which was lump sum by nature needs to be itemized. ‘Yun ho in-itemize natin dito…The House did not do anything illegal and in fact itemized the lump sum for health facilities,” he said. 

He urged the senator to let President Duterte settle the matter on lump sum appropriations. 

For his part, Lacson said Bravo’s opinion "reflects his own attitude and character."

“I am a forgiving person. I have already forgiven all those who had wronged me in the past. This is about the national budget. This is about my personal anti-pork crusade and advocacy, not Speaker Arroyo or any congressman or senator,” he said. 

ITEMIZATION OF LUMP SUMS

Meanwhile, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rolando Andaya Jr said both the House and Senate submitted details of the amendments made by lawmakers after the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the 2019 budget.

Andaya’s office showed documents showing Senate staff meeting with Andaya on February 11 to submit the Senate’s amendments —3 days after both chambers ratified the bicameral conference committee report on February 8, which is the last day before Congress adjourned for the May 2019 campaign. Andaya said the House submitted theirs 2 weeks after.

Andaya, a former budget secretary during the Arroyo administration, said both sides agreed to submit itemizations of the lump sums after the ratification. 

“’Yung parte po ng public works, eto lang po isang linya lump sum isa-isang buo. Pero ‘yung detalye binibigay po ‘yan pagkatapos mapirmahan ang bicam report. Di po natin pwede idetalye ang breakdown ng isang lump sum pag hindi pa natin alam kung ano ‘yung amount na paghahatian o i-breakdown,” he said. 

He added all the projects have been itemized in one volume of the budget.

Andaya said a Supreme Court decision banning post enactment intervention in the implementation of the budget “does not apply here because the budget has not become law yet without the President’s signature.”

He said even the realignments of the funds were agreed upon during the bicameral conference. On the last day of session, Andaya’s office released to media a matrix of realignments, showing around P96 billion worth of realignments made by the bicam across all items in the budget.

"Yung bicam report increase, decrease din talaga. Nakalagay talaga doon ang increases and decreases. Ang budgeting kasi, ang problema po is nakikita natin kalahati lang ng litrato. Nakikita lang ho ng karamihan yung epekto ng pagtaas ng kanilang mga alokasyon o kakulangan ng mga alokasyon pero nalilimutan po nila 'yung unang mas importanteng kalahati noon, 'yung pagkukunan ng mga dagdag," he said.

Andaya said congressmen were "more transparent" in their realignments because they itemized their projects with the names of the requesting or proponent lawmakers. He said these can be traced as well through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) district engineer in the case of DPWH projects. 

He said senators did not show the names of the proponents of their realignments, which is why in the case of DPWH projects, it would be possible for both senators and congressmen to fund projects in the same implementing DPWH office. 

He said for DPWH alone, senators have P21 billion worth of projects, the same as the P21-billion worth of projects by congressmen.

Andaya revealed the Senate actually wanted to removed the P75 billion inserted by the Department of Budget and Management, which would have resulted in about 60 congressmen with zero budget. He said Mrs. Arroyo had ordered that no congressman would get zero budget regardless of political alliances.

He also urged the Senate not to hold the budget hostage, saying the amount involved is not even 3% of the over P3 trillion peso budget. He said President Duterte can always veto the realignments if he finds it wrong.

"Kung ang pinagtatalunan natin, 3% ng budget. They maintain na mali, we maintain na walang mali - kung mali eh di i-veto ng Presidente kung anumang halaga 'yun," he said.