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Ping laments cuts in calamity fund to replenish DPWH ‘pork’: Biniyak para may paghatian?

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Victims of calamities may have been sacrificed at the altar of politics with the restoration of more than P8 billion in “pork” to the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways in 2017, Sen. Panfilo Lacson lamented Wednesday.

Lacson said the DPWH now has a budget of P454.721 billion under the General Appropriations Act, an increase of P9.054 billion from the P445.766 billion in the National Expenditure Program.

But he noted the addition to the DPWH budget came from the huge cuts suffered by National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF) or Calamity Fund under the Special Purpose Fund, whose budget was reduced by P21.5 billion, from P37.255 billion to just P15.755 billion.

“What is sad here is the thought of sacrificing the victims of calamities for political favors and alliances. The details of the DPWH budget and other agencies are not yet out. Once we get hold of the budget books, we will diligently scrutinize. I and my team will continue to be the watchdog to guard against abuses in the use of public funds,” he said.

“I am quite sure that these realignments are all about pork,” he added. “… I tell you – it is tiring and frustrating and not a few times, I have paused and felt resigned, simply step aside or abandon this advocacy. It is a lonely crusade, to say the least.”

Lacson added that with massive devastations brought by recent calamities including typhoons Pablo, Yolanda, Karen, Lawin and Nina, “most of the victims might be left to fend for themselves instead of getting sufficient assistance from the government.”

In the case of Yolanda, which devastated the Visayas and parts of Luzon in 2013, Lacson said at least P100 billion is needed for those affected to fully recover.

As the then Presidential Adviser on Rehabilitation and Recovery, Lacson recommended a funding of P167.8 billion. But up to now, he said the annual budget being appropriated for that purpose since 2014 “has been a trickle in the bucket compared to the total budget required.”

In saying the realignments were all about pork, Lacson recalled that during the budget plenary debates, congressmen from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao sought him to plead their case, after Lacson pushed for the removal of the P8.3 billion “pork” from the DPWH budget.

He recalled the ARMM solons telling him, “buti nga daw sila, tig P1.5 bilyon lang na projects, yung iba raw mga congressmen abot ng tig-P5 bilyon.”

“Change is coming? Maybe, pero it’s pork allocations changing hands from LP congressmen to those from Mindanao,” Lacson said.

Also, he said at least two of his fellow senators had commented in the lounge during session suspensions, “Sobra naman sila… tayo ngang mga senador, tig P300-million lang.“

Lacson said he did not submit his supposed P300-million list of projects. He said Senators Vicente Sotto III and Francis Pangilinan approached him separately to say they did not submit either.

“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. 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,” he said.

“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.