Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said it is high time the government designate local executives in procuring of supplies and implement projects to prevent corruption and underutilization of the national budget.
Lacson said national agencies have shown bad procurement decisions, including the transfer of P42 billion to the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service – which in turn allowed shady firms such as Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. to bag multibillion-peso contracts despite lack of qualifications.
“Why don’t we devolve the procurement of medicines, drugs and other items? It’s about time. Time and again we have witnessed bad procurement by the DOH and other line agencies,” he said at the Senate deliberation on the P5.024-trillion budget for 2022.
Meanwhile, equal protection of fundamental rights regardless of social status awaits many Filipinos under the possible administration of Partido Reporma chairman and standard-bearer Lacson, Carmona Mayor Roy Loyola said.
Loyola, who also hails from Cavite province as Lacson, told a morning radio show that the veteran lawmaker is in the best position to lead the country for the next six years because of his commitment to implement the laws of our land without prejudice.
Lacson, who champions the empowerment of LGUs as they are in the best position to determine their constituents’ needs and priorities, noted the Commission on Audit had flagged the DOH’s “deficient” procurement of near-expiry drugs worth P95 million.
“We’re now again putting in at least P30 billion under the House version of the budget bill to purchase drugs, medicines, medical and dental supplies. I’ve nothing against procurement of drugs and medicines but if we’re wasting money for the procurement of nearly expired or expiring drugs, what’s the sense of spending a lot of money?” he said.
He also noted that devolving the procurement of LGUs is better as shown in the purchase of ambulances with basic life support equipment.
While the DOH procured 841 ambulances at P2.5 million each, the LGUs managed to procure ambulances with similar specifications at P1.5 million each.
“The procurement by the national agency was much more expensive, and it bought 841 units,” Lacson said.
Meanwhile, Lacson said it is also time that the government unload from the national agencies the burden of involving themselves in the construction of smaller projects and just give it to the LGUs.
He noted that in deliberations of past budgets, the recommendations of the LGUs as contained in their local development plans were mostly disregarded by as much as 80 percent.
At the time, then Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado issued a circular that without formal endorsement from the Regional Development Councils, the DBM will not release funds to the agencies involved.
“Why not unburden the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and other agencies so they can focus on big-ticket projects instead of involving themselves in smaller projects?” Lacson asked.
It was disclosed during the hearing that of the 119 flagship infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration, only 14 have been completed while four more are due for completion before June 2022.
Lacson added devolving such functions would also be in line with the Supreme Court’s Mandanas-Garcia ruling granting more internal revenue allotments to the local governments.
“If we don’t start now, I don’t think we can comply with the Mandanas ruling,” he said
Mayor Loyola backed up his words by citing the legendary career of Lacson as chief of Philippine National Police (PNP), when he succeeded in eliminating the culture of corruption among the uniformed personnel, thus restoring public trust to the institution.
“If he [Lacson] was able to discipline our policemen, I believe our civilians will be disciplined as well. Everyone will follow suit because there will be equal application of the laws, regardless of whether you are rich or poor, and that is what we need,” Loyola told radio anchor Deo Macalma over DZRH.
Lacson led the PNP between 1999 to 2001 and during this period, Loyola said, the so-called “kotong” cops or those policemen who had the habit of extorting money from the public were stamped out.
“It was only during his time that the police officers were in order. The trust rating [for the PNP] increased from negative to positive-68. The police were really nice and respectful to our civilians. The ‘kotong’ cops were not around,” Loyola noted.
Loyola likewise mentioned that the proposed Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) program of Lacson is a great way to help secure better public funding for many practical local development projects across the nation.
“Our barangay captains, mayors, governors no longer have to lobby our national government because the different LGUs up to the barangay will already have development fund allocations,” the Carmona mayor said of BRAVE.
Lacson is seeking the presidency in the 2022 elections alongside his longtime friend and legislative colleague, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who is running for vice president under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).
BRAVE has been shaping up as the flagship program of the Lacson-Sotto tandem based on their shared principles that spending public funds in a transparent and judicious manner can lead to more inclusive social and economic progress for all Filipinos.
Loyola and Sotto are party mates at NPC. The incumbent Carmona mayor is also running for Congress in the 2022 elections to represent the fifth district of Cavite covering the municipalities of Carmona, Silang, and General Mariano Alvarez.