Solons wary realigned P51.8B will end up as ‘pork’ for Arroyo allies
An opposition lawmaker thinks that the realignment of the controversial P51.8 billion infrastructure funds in the proposed 2019 national budget was a “struggle over spoils” that would lead to a “re-division of pork.”
ACT-Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio on Wednesday said he believes the P51.8 billion was slashed from the pet projects of lawmakers who are allied with former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and would likely only be reallocated to fund projects of lawmakers allied with the current House leader – former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Yes, the impasse that held the national budget hostage was a struggle over spoils,” he told INQUIRER.net in a text message.
“The new leadership in the House requires a re-division of pork,” he added.
Another opposition solon, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao shares Tinio’s observation.
Casilao said that although the House committee of the whole on Tuesday approved to realign the budget and augmented agencies that deliver social services, P38 billion of the P51.8 billion were still earmarked for hard projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
He said he doubts that the realigned P51.8 billion would be allotted equitably to all congressmen.
“By experience hindi ‘yan sa lahat,” Casilao noted.
“Probably (to allies only). Kaya mas ang assertion namin sa Makabayan (bloc) mas productive na i-allot … ang buong P52B sa mga ahensyang direktang serbisyo sa tao– DOH, DA, SUCs, NHA, DAR, at DSWD,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said the controversial P51.8 billion was “unjustified allocations” given to the districts of some lawmakers favored by the former House leadership.
But Alvarez has denied such allegations.
“I do not know what they are talking about. It was programmed by the executive branch!” Alvarez told INQUIRER.net.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, Jr. has earlier said the realigned P51.8 billion would be itemized into specific state projects during the chamber’s period of amendments on House Bill No. 8169 or the General Appropriations Bill for 2019.
“The approved amendments in the budget will be itemized. There will be no post-enactment identification which is prohibited. Spelled out dapat,” he said.
Out of the P51.8 billion, the House leadership has funneled P31.6 billion to other DPWH programs, P5 billion to national risk reduction management fund, P6 billion to the Department of Health (DOH), P3 billion to the Department of Education (DepEd), P5 billion to the Department of Agriculture (DA), and P1.2 billion to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).
The controversial fund was slashed from specific infrastructure projects from 15 regions. The regions of Alvarez and some of his known allies were among those that received huge cuts.
Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas is from Ilocos Norte, a part of Region I which infrastructure budget was slashed by P1.2 million. Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc meanwhile is from Region III, the budget of which was lowered by P3.4 billion.
The regions of Alvarez as well as that of Reps. Reynaldo Umali, and Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Jr. were slashed by P5.4 billion, P10.4 billion, and P9.2 billion, respectively.
After a two-day delay, the House began on Wednesday its plenary debates on the proposed P3.757-trillion cash-based national budget for 2019.
Compostela Valley 1st District Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, vice chair of the House appropriations panel, delivered the sponsorship speech for House Bill No. 8169, which is traditionally delivered by the committee chair. /kga
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