Rep. Magsaysay confronts budget secretary on pork barrel, criesBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
She came out firing—and ended up crying.
Frustration got the better of Zambales Representative Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay when she confronted the Aquino administration for apparently withholding the “pork barrel” allocated for her district in the last two years.
Magsaysay broke down when she failed to get a straight answer from Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad at Wednesday’s opening of congressional deliberations on the proposed P2.006-trillion national budget for next year.
For around 30 minutes, the lawmaker quizzed Abad on why the Priority Development Assistance Fund for allocation for her district was never released since President Benigno Aquino assumed office in 2010.
The withheld allocation amounted to at least P140 million since a member of the House of Representatives is entitled to P70 million annually.
But a stoic Abad never gave a categorical response every time Magsaysay asked who was behind the decision to withhold her PDAF.
“Ultimately, the buck stops with me,” he repeatedly told the administration-dominated committee on appropriations.
Just as she was demanding an “unedited” video copy of the proceedings—so she could show it to her constituents in the first district of Zambales and Olongapo City—Magsaysay started crying.
“So they’ll know whom to blame for why they can no longer go to college, can no longer have a skills training program, money for their hospitalization, and hope to improve their lives—all because of politics,” she lamented in Filipino.
Surprised by outburst
Many people in the packed Andaya Hall were visibly surprised by the outburst, but some of Magsaysay’s colleagues were seen smiling. But Magsaysay, known for her fiery remarks in committee hearings and on plenary, was not to be denied.
“If you do not feel what my people are feeling, well, I do!” she went on, saying her district should not be made to suffer if the Aquino administration had a “problem with the previous administration.”
The withholding of pork barrel funds for opposition lawmakers was also a major complaint during the nine-year regime of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative in the House.
Magsaysay then singled out Abad, a member of the President’s inner circle.
“Especially you, Secretary Abad! I don’t know where you got the arrogance to even state in public… you were boasting that you withheld the PDAF of my district and you even intend not to release it for 2013!” she said.
“Tandaan mo, Secretary Abad, hindi iisa ang araw. May panahon din kayo!”
‘Breaking the law’
Magsaysay earlier warned that Abad was “breaking the law” by not releasing her PDAF. She said he was mandated to do so under the General Appropriations Act (GAA), which Congress passes every year.
“’Wag na tayo magbolahan dito. Hindi naman bobo ang kausap nila eh!” she thundered, adding Abad could not cite “political realities” to justify the absence of her allocation.
“For the last time, I would just like to ask Mr. Secretary Abad, ‘Was it your decision to withhold the PDAF of the first district of Zambales and Olongapo?’ Please answer yes or no. I will not accept any other answer,” she said.
Abad replied: “As I said, Mr. Chairman, the buck stops with me. I’m sorry if the proponent of the question does not agree with my answer, but that’s my answer, Mr. Chairman.”
“So, in other words, when you say the buck stops with you, then it was your decision?” Magsaysay said.
“If you want to interpret it that way, Mr. Chairman, you are free to do so,” Abad retorted.
Later after the hearing, Magsaysay twitted: “Once the GAA is ratified by both the Senate & the house, it becomes a law. If the GAA is a law, then it is very clear that Abad violated the law by not releasing d Pdaf..can’t even cite legal basis 4 his action.
“With Abad’s statements, he just showed the TRUE colors of this admin..they don’t mind violating the law because of whim ,arrogance.”—With a report from Karen Boncocan, INQUIRER.net
Originally posted at 08:40 pm | Wednesday, August 01, 2012