Lacson to ask SC to strike down pork barrel items in 2015 budget

MANILA, Philippines – Former Senator Panfilo Lacson will file on Monday, August 10, before the Supreme Court a petition for prohibition against certain provisions in the 2015 budget law that “border on pork.”

“We have sufficient documents in our possession that will prove that PDAF and DAP are alive and kicking,” said Lacson, who did not use his pork barrel when he was senator.

PDAF and DAP refer to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which the Supreme Court ruled respectively as fully and partially unconstitutional.

In a forum at the University of the Philippines on Wednesday, August 5, the former senator said pork barrel os “alive and kicking” in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Lacson said he and his team have found a number of anomalous provisions in the 2015 GAA which they believe to be pork barrel. These are lump sums that were inserted into the the GAA but were not in budget bills of the House and the Senate.

He cited 4 line items inserted in the budget for the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) worth P146 million, which includes an Agno River Irrigation System Extension Project worth over P66.2 million.

Furthermore, Lacson said the Department of Agriculture budget has 1,389 line items inserted, amounting to P6.25 billion.

Lacson already revealed this discovery before. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad claimed in a press release that the former senator's information is inaccurate. 

"A careful reading of the National Budget would prove that quickly enough. While the General Appropriations Act may appear complex, it will very clearly show two things: that the supposed DAP provisions are not in the GAA, and that there are fewer lump sums in the Administration’s spending plan this year," Abad said.

Savings

Lacson added that he finds problematic the new provisions in budget allowing savings to be declared before the end of the fiscal year. Allowing savings run the risk of allowing the administration too much leeway on where the money goes. It also practically restores what Malacañang under the DAP. (READ: SONA 2015: Aquino gov’t continues to underspend)

He said the need for approval from the DBM to declare savings was “fiscal dictatorship.”

NO MORE PORK? The Supreme Court ruled the priority development assistance fund in 2013. Photo by Gerard Lim/Rappler

NO MORE PORK? The Supreme Court ruled the priority development assistance fund in 2013.

Photo by Gerard Lim/Rappler

The forum panel expressed the need to scrap pork as it continued to perpetuate patronage politics in the country. (READ: 5 reasons pork perpetuates corruption) For one, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said, patronage politics "is what fuels the kind of government we have." 

Leonor Briones, lead convenor of Social Watch, also criticized the repeated changing of definition of savings. “If you want to keep changing the definition of savings, then go change the definitions used in finance and accounting books as well,” she said. 

Lacson also criticized how the government has been passing increasing budgets despite government agencies not fully spending all the money alloted to them. 

The government has even incurred increasing debts totalling to P6.3 trillion in 2014.

Lacson said everyone aged 15 and above has to pay around P66,000 each to eliminate national debt.

Lacson was Yolanda rehabilitation czar until February this year. He claimed that DBM did not release enough funds for Yolanda-stricken areas. (READ: Budget chief denies not releasing funds)  Rappler.com