More flights this year! Ping readies drones vs ‘pork-laden’ projects
Drones may turn out to be quite a useful weapon against pork barrel funds, including those retained in the P3.7-trillion budget for 2019.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson hinted at this as he said “life goes on” after both houses of Congress ratified the P3.7-trillion 2019 budget that he said is laden with pork.
“Life goes on! We lost the vote on ‘pork’ insertions in the 2019 budget and we respect the will of majority of our colleagues. I guess our drone will again be very busy flying later this year to oversee how those ‘projects’ are implemented, if at all,” he said in a post on his Twitter account on Sunday.
Lacson also said he is eyeing more headway against “pork” and other flaws in the warped budgeting process that has allowed it to thrive.
He said making sure the budgeting process is followed properly will prevent “pork” by having district representatives in Congress take part in planning at the local level, instead of inserting projects after Malacanang has already submitted its version of the budget – the National Expenditure Program – to Congress.
“It is high time we eliminate the obvious disconnect between the needs and priorities of the countryside local government units and the expenditure program at the national level, due to the absence of consultations,” Lacson said.
“Because of this disconnect, district representatives – instead of attending and participating in the formulation of local development plans within their districts, where they are members of the Local Development Councils – opt to arbitrarily make insertions during the authorization phase, without due regard to the needs and priorities of the LGUs within their districts,” he added.
In 2018, Lacson and his staff had random drone flights in various parts of the country to check on “pork” infrastructure projects in the 2018 budget.
This was after he questioned and moved for the removal of some P50.8 billion in projects – including those with right-of-way issues from the 2018 budget, but was prevailed upon to allow the restoration of the amount when the Department of Public Works and Highways “assured” it can resolve them.
Yet, the drone flights of some of these projects showed a physical accomplishment ranging from zero to one percent.
Also, Lacson questioned billions of pesos in “pork” projects in the 2019 budget, including at least P160 million for each House member.
The P160 million includes P70 million for “hard” projects such as roads and flood control projects; and P30 million for “soft” projects such as textbooks and scholarships. Another P60 million was added by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, including P50 million for “hard” projects and P10 million for “soft” projects, while some of the more fortunate House members received much more.
Even some senators had been found to have individual amendments amounting to P23 billion.
While these amounts were retained in the 2019 budget, Lacson noted some “progress” against pork had been made, including the deletion of all appropriations for flood control, particularly dredging, desilting and the like; and realigned to capital outlay for the purchase of dredging machines.
He also cited the Senate-introduced Department of Health realignment, as well as the adoption of most of his institutional amendments, such as:
* the 240-day-a-year school feeding program for wasted and nearly wasted schoolchildren
* additional allowance for teachers
* some appropriations cover for laws passed regarding our age old veterans
* augmentation budget requested by the judiciary
* activation of an infantry unit to fight terrorist groups in Mindanao.
But more importantly, he said the discourse on the issue has enlightened the public on the outlawed pork barrel.
Lacson said he intends to build on these gains, especially in eliminating the disconnect between the needs and priorities of the local government units and the expenditure program at the national level.
“If we follow the budgeting process in its proper form, local government units will have a say in the planning of projects, and will not be left behind,” he said.
“Even better, these projects will create local jobs so residents need not leave for Metro Manila or other urban centers to find work,” he added.