Road to nowhere leads to trouble

Senator Panfilo Lacson. Photo by jepoycamboy on flickr; licensed under Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA-2.0.In a statement on September 8, 2008, Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed that he had unearthed a double appropriation for what he called a “road to nowhere” in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2008, GMANews.TV reports.

Under the section for Metro Manila projects, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was appropriating Php200 million for the construction of the “President Carlos Garcia Avenue Extension” from the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) SLEX to Sucat, Parañaque. Under the section for "Urgent Infrastructure Including Local Projects," another item also appropriated Php200 million for the "Construction of C-5 Road Extension from SLEX to Sucat Road."

"President Garcia Avenue Extension and C-5 are one and the same. Who knows what Malacañang will use the extra P200 million for? What we are sure of is that it will end up in the pockets of some Palace official," GMANews.tv quotes Lacson as saying.


The next day, according to another GMANews.tv article, eight senators called for an investigation of the double appropriation. Lacson named Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. as one of those involved, saying “Whether or not this was his project… may billboard siya dun at may press release siya na may hawak siyang pala (He has a billboard there and a press release with a picture showing him holding a shovel).” Villar, however, commented that the accusation came shortly after he announced his intention to run for President in 2010. An article in newsflash.org reports a claim that Villar's real estate company had earlier acquired property worth Php92M near the controversial road.

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Alan Peter Cayetano also questioned the timing of the accusation, according to newsflash.org, which quotes Cayetano as saying: “Their motive is really not about good governance, but the 2010 presidential elections.” Also according to newsflash, the DPWH-National Capital Region assistant regional director for construction operations, Edilberto Tayao, had earlier denied that the projects were the same, and said that Lacson might have been confused since the project names were similar.

Lacson was supposed to discuss his discoveries in a privilege speech on Wednesday, September 10, 2008, but the Senate suspended the session due to heavy rains, says Inquirer.net. Lacson and Senator Jamby Madrigal , however, said that Villar had intentionally suspended the session to avoid acting on the resolution they had filed calling for the Senate to investigate the appropriation, the Inquirer adds. However, the Philippine Star relates that Lacson was among the signatories to the bicameral conference report on the budget which contained the insertion, while Villar was not in the committee on the budget.

Another article on Inquirer.net quotes Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya as saying that an insertion in the National Budget, by itself, is not a crime, as it was within the power of the legislature to amend the budget proposal. "Yung paglagay ng insertion sa budget, karapatan ho talaga ng Kamara at ng Senado. Iyan ay hindi ho pwedeng tanggalin. Pati ho sa Konstitusyon, yan ang magiging konklusyon. [Insertions in the budget are the right of the House and the Senate. That cannot be taken away from them. Even in the Constitution , that will be the conclusion]," the Inquirer quotes Andaya as saying.


 

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