CONGRESSMEN putting extreme pressure on Public Works Secretary Mark Villar and the others before him for priority funding of their “pet projects” have been the source of the deep-rooted corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said yesterday.
Lacson claimed a number of congressmen have been throwing their weights on Villar for their districts’ inclusion in the DPWH’s list of priority projects and for funding “insertions” in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“The question is: Can the DPWH secretary stand up to the pressure exerted on him by the congressmen? As we already know, the answer is obviously no. And no matter how the secretary denies it, nobody is ready to believe him. We also know that it is the root cause of corruption,” Lacson said in a statement.
Lacson’s statement echoed the weekend remarks of Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) commissioner Greco Belgica that some congressmen have been bullying DPWH district engineers to force them into conspiring with solons and contractors, an allegation which Villar had already denied.
Villar, in an interview with radio dzBB on Sunday, said district engineers are designated based on qualifications and performance, not on political favor or leaning.
Lacson said the DPWH secretary can always kick out any of his men allegedly involved in illegal activities as he has the full authority to assign men under his department, including district engineers, unless he delegates it to his regional directors “or if Malacañang overrides the assignments on very few occasions.”
He said it is an open secret that congressmen, in many occasions, use their influence to have their “favorite” district engineers to be assigned to their districts so they can have full control in the implementation of pet projects allegedly funded by the insertions made in the budget measure.
“Almost anything that has to do with politics in this country breeds corruption. Politics becomes evil when self-aggrandizement and greed come into play – whether it is in aid of reelection or enrichment of an elected official while in power, the result is the same. Worse, these people do not know when to stop once they have started,” Lacson said.
Lacson said government projects are the ultimate losers in the system as infrastructures end up being constructed poorly and construction materials used are of inferior quality. He said bulk of the funding for infrastructure projects are split and pocketed by greedy contractors, engineers and politicians.
“This is the main reason why I abhor and remain outspoken against the pork barrel system more than a decade before the Supreme Court ruled on its unconstitutionality in 2013. The national budget is the most violated, if not the most abused law of the land. The abominable part is, the violators are lawmakers and those tasked to implement the GAA.
That is why we are so screwed up as a country for as long as we remember politicians,” Lacson said.
Lacson has been watching with hawk eyes the insertions made by congressmen in the budget measure.
In the recent budget committee hearings at the Senate, Lacson had questioned the P396 billion lump sum appropriations in the DPWH budget, the P1 million allocation for 42 congressional districts for vague projects, decrease of budget allocation for national projects and the increase in funding for local projects such as multi-purposed buildings which, the senator, said totals P76 billion.