MISLEADING: Lacson 'declares' 2020 budget 'truly pork-free'

Claim: Senator Panfilo Lacson "declared" that the House version of the 2020 budget is “truly pork-free,” according to an article published by Mindanation.com on November 3.

The article cited the senator’s interview on radio station Super Radyo DZBB 594 on the same day the article was published, saying that the senator "took to the radio to broadcast his admiration of the House."

The article got over 2,000 Facebook engagements based on data from CrowdTangle, a social media monitoring tool. A reader emailed the link to Rappler for verification. Claim Check, Facebook’s dashboard monitoring tool that identifies potentially dubious posts spread across the platform, also flagged the link for fact checking.

Rating: MISLEADING

The facts: Senator Lacson only said that his team found "no pork" during their preliminary study of the General Appropriations Bill submitted by the House of Representatives to the Senate. The Mindanation.com article failed to mention that the Senate is still reviewing it and that it's still too early to tell whether or not there is pork in the budget.

Mindanation.com also did not mention the “potentially questionable items in the budget” pointed out by Lacson during the same DZBB interview on November 3, which was the basis of the whole article.

Lacson said these “unclear” items amount to P20 billion, which came from the National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by Malacañang. This went through the House but was not scrutinized because of its speedy passage in September.

Maski hindi nagalaw ng HOR ('yung NEP), may mga napansin din kami na may mga hindi malinaw kung saan dadalhin ang pondo. Hindi malinaw. Naka-park ito kung saan-saan,” Lacson said. (Even though the House did not touch the NEP, we noticed questionable items in the budget where it’s not clear where the funds will be used. It’s not clear. It’s parked in different agencies.)

Two days later, on November 5, Lacson was on another interview with DZBB where he said: "Hindi pa natin masabi (kung may pork) kasi hindi natin nakikita ang implementation (ng ibang line items) at hindi pa tapos ang deliberations sa Senado," he said. (We can't say for sure yet if there is pork because we still can't see the implementation of some of the unclear line items and the Senate deliberations are still ongoing.)

Although the senator said his team found no pork during their first look, he also clarified a day after on November 4 that the P20-billion lump sum funds they found can be considered pork based on a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that declared the pork barrel system unconstitutional.

The decision read: "In the Philippines, 'pork barrel' has been commonly referred to as lump sum, discretionary funds of Members of the Legislature, although its usage would evolve in reference to certain funds of the Executive."

Mindanation.com has not published an update to their story to include Lacson’s recent statements as of writing. What they published separately on November 5, however, was an article on Senator Bong Go assuring the public of a “pork-free” national budget. There was no mention of Lacson in this article.

Still, Lacson did commend the House and referred to them as the Senate’s "most behaved counterparts," as mentioned in Mindanation.com's story.

Lacson explained that this is because the chamber kept its word to only add the previously announced P9.5-billion institutional amendments in the 2020 budget. (READ: Where House is proposing to realign P9.52 billion in 2020 budget– Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com

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