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Lacson laments huge cut in calamity fund

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson yesterday feared that calamity victims may be left to fend for themselves and fail to receive sufficient assistance from the government after the calamity fund was reduced by P497 million and realigned to the Department of Public Works and Highways that has regained P8 billion in lump sum funds.

Lacson lamented the insertions or realignments of appropriations to finance “pork barrel” projects of legislators which he discovered in the 2017 P3.35-trillion national budget.

“What is sad here is the thought of sacrificing the victims of calamities for political favors and alliances. The details of the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) budget and other agencies are not yet out. Once we get hold of the budget books, we will diligently scrutinize,’’ Lacson said.

Lacson revealed that the DPWH regained its P8-billion pork that was slashed in the 2017 national budget. “Not only that, it (DPWH) got an additional P497 million, at the expense of the Calamity Fund,’’ he said.

“Apparently, the P8.557 billion plus another P497 million added to the budget of the DPWH, which increased by P9.054 billion (from P445.766 billion to P454.721 billion), came from the huge cuts suffered by NDRRMF (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund) or Calamity Fund under the Special Purpose Fund, which was reduced from an original budget of P37.255 billion (in the NEP) to a mere P15.755 billion (in the GAA), or a reduction of P21.5 billion,” Lacson said.

Meanwhile, Lacson said that some lawmakers were allegedly given up to R5 billion in pork allocations in this year’s national budget.

Lacson said some congressmen from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao came to see him to plead their case during their budget plenary debates.

“Inabot nga kami ng 10 p.m. sa office ko explaining in so many words, thus – “Buti nga sila, tig-P1.5 billion lang na projects. Yung iba raw congressmen abot ng tig-P5 billion,” Lacson said.

“Change is coming? Maybe, pero (but) it’s pork allocations changing hands from LP congressmen to those from Mindanao,” he added.

Lacson said unlike congressmen, some of his colleagues had been asked to identify a list of projects amounting to P300 million only. “At least two of my colleagues commented in the lounge during session suspensions, “Sobra naman sila…tayo ngang mga senador, tig-P300-M lang…”

He also revealed that he did not submit his list of projects totaling P300 million. “By the way, I did not submit my P300-M list of projects. Senate Majority Leader Vicente ‘’Tito’’ Sotto III and Francis ‘’Kiko’’ Pangilinan approached me on separate occasions to inform me that they too did not submit.”

‘’I don’t know who else among my Senate colleagues likewise did not submit their list,’’ he said.

‘’There is no saying here that those who identified their projects in the 2017 national budget, both from the Senate and the House would get commissions from contractors,’’ he stressed.

‘’What I’m trying to say is, Filipinos are made to believe that PDAF is dead after the SC ruling in 2013. I am not stupid. Filipinos are not stupid. They are just resigned, I think,’’ he explained.

‘’After all these years that I and my staff scrutinize the budget books year in and year out, I know pork when I see it.

I believe our people, especially our taxpayers, should know the real score behind all these pretenses and denials about the existence of pork,’’ he added. (Mario B. Casayuran)