Andaya: 99 House members got allotments bigger than Arroyo’s
Why single her out?
Contrary to Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s statements questioning the P2.4 billion worth of projects earmarked for Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s district, 99 other House members are actually getting bigger allocations for their respective constituencies under the proposed 2019 national budget, according to House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr.
“Let’s get this straight … The allocation of our Speaker is actually ranked about 100th. Around 99 congressmen have bigger allocations for their districts,” Andaya said at a news briefing on Friday.
Earlier this week, Lacson said the second district of Pampanga, which Arroyo has been representing since 2010, got the bulk of the alleged pork barrel allocations in the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019.
Lacson said the funds were inserted in select districts when the House realigned at the eleventh hour the amounts listed in the original budget submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
“I’ll say most of them or all of (the legislators) got P60 million. But some blessed few got more,” the senator then said.
Andaya last week admitted that Arroyo had directed the allotment of at least P60 million worth of government projects for the House members. But he insisted that the allocations were all itemized and not pork barrel funds—or lump-sum appropriations which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2013.
Arroyo’s district was not even among the top 10 congressional districts that received the biggest allotments, Andaya said on Friday.
“If you look at it, the Speaker’s allocation was not even the biggest (in the four districts) of Pampanga,” he stressed. “The Speaker did not want to adjust the allocations since she understands the needs of our colleagues.”
Though he felt alluded to, the House majority leader also denied that he was the Camarines Sur legislator who Lacson said got P1.9 billion for his district.
It was another House member who got at least P8 billion worth of projects, Andaya said. But he refused to identify the legislator, saying “if the Senate was able to discover (these realigned funds), they could identify that lawmaker.”
Andaya, who served as budget secretary during the Arroyo administration, is on his third and last term as congressman of Camarines Sur’s first district.
The House leader said he saw no need to explain to the Palace why Arroyo’s district was allotted a big amount since the proposed national budget was approved by the entire 292-member chamber and not just by the Speaker and her allies.
He said all incumbent senators, except for Lacson, had requested the allocation of funds for certain districts in the country.
Even Sen. Loren Legarda, his counterpart in the Senate, had sought funding for government projects in Antique province, where she is running for congresswoman in 2019, Andaya said.
On the P16B for LGUs
Explaining another allocation being questioned by Lacson, Andaya maintained that lawmakers would have no access to the P16 billion set aside for local government units (LGUs) since the funds would be directly managed by the DBM, not Congress.
Lacson on Thursday raised the red flag on the proposed Algu (or assistance to local government units) whose original amount, he said, was doubled by the House and Senate without consulting the DBM.
“There is no need to seek permission from any government agency,” Andaya said. “They can consult and give advice, but Congress has the final say at this point in time.”
The Senate deferred the approval of the 2019 budget proposals of the Department of Finance, the DBM, and the National Economic and Development Authority amid allegations of pork insertions.
The senators are “not done with their questions,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri told reporters.
General appropriations bill
In view of the issues raised by Lacson, the Senate might introduce changes to the general appropriations bill (GAB) with regard to certain agencies, Zubiri said. “I can’t speak for all senators, but the leadership has said (that) we support [Lacson’s] move for transparency.”
The Senate is expected to log 12-hour days in the next two weeks to scrutinize and ratify the GAB before year-end to avert the adoption of a reenacted budget.
Congress is supposed to hold its last session on Dec. 12, but lawmakers may extend the legislative calendar to accommodate the budget measure.
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