Ex-Speaker Alvarez allotted P5-B pork, says Andaya
The district of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, not that of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or those of her allies in the House of Representatives, was allotted the biggest infrastructure funding in the proposed P3.8-trillion national budget for next year, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said on Tuesday.
In a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte, Andaya said P5 billion was earmarked for projects in Alvarez’s district in Davao del Norte province, making the former Speaker’s constituency the biggest recipient of infrastructure allotments.
Former Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, who relinquished his post after he was named secretary to the Cabinet, got P4 billion, while the district of Andaya’s predecessor, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, was allotted P3.5 billion.
When sought for comment, Alvarez and Fariñas said they had no hand in earmarking funds for their districts.
Breaking her silence on the issue, Arroyo, who was accused by Sen. Panfilo Lacson of getting P2.4 billion worth of projects, said it was not true that her district in Pampanga province was showered with infrastructure projects.
“I’m only ‘upper-middle class’ as far as the allocations are concerned,” Arroyo told reporters on Tuesday.
In his letter, Andaya said Arroyo’s second district in Pampanga placed 60th, not 100th as he had previously claimed, among legislative areas with the biggest allotments.
Arroyo said it was the House appropriations committee, not her, that prepared the budget. “Because even if I’m Speaker, I think Andaya and many congressmen will attest, that I do not dictate on details.”
Andaya said the proposed pork for his district in Camarines Sur province was 110th among legislative areas with the largest projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
His district was allotted P1.9 billion in the proposed budget that the House had submitted to the Senate, according to Lacson.
Response to Palace
Andaya drafted the letter to the President to explain the insertions in the budget as disclosed by Lacson, who has examined the House-approved spending bill as part of his fight against the graft-ridden pork barrel system, a source of hefty kickbacks for lawmakers.
The letter was in response to a statement of presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo that Arroyo should explain to the public why billions of pesos in projects had been allotted to her district.
Andaya said DPWH officials were unaware of the “huge funding spikes” in the allotments for certain “favored districts.”
He added that the National Economic and Development Authority had informed him that the regional development councils did not request the projects.
“As the one who participated in the budget process from both the executive and legislative side, the Speaker has instructed us to treat the draft national budget as a rigorously crafted instrument, which gives residents in all districts equal opportunity for growth and the same access to services,” Andaya said in the letter.
He added that what the current House leadership did “was, in a manner compliant with all laws, to purge the budget of development favoritism and as much as possible, apportion next year’s spending to all districts in a fair manner.”
Andaya surmised that officials of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) did not inform the President about the matter because he would not have allowed it since this would “violate his oft-repeated promise to the people of equal progress for all.”
Arroyo, whose tumultuous nine-year presidency was besieged by various corruption allegations, maintained that she was unfairly criticized for the alleged realignment of pork in the national expenditure program submitted by the DBM to the House.
Singled out by Lacson
Asked if she thought she was singled out by Lacson, she replied: “Yes, yes.”
As to Lacson’s possible motive in leveling the allegations against her, Arroyo said: “I cannot make allegations about somebody else’s motive, just as it is right for them not to make allegations about me.”
The Speaker played down the senator’s insinuations that her political allies received a windfall from the supposed pork bonanza in the proposed budget.
“The [allies of] the previous leadership of the House have bigger, multiples of the budget of my district … If I’m No. 90 or No. 60 and I’m the Speaker of the House, do I have to explain that?” she said.
In a statement, Panelo expressed appreciation for Andaya’s gesture to explain the proposed infrastructure allocation for the second district of Pampanga.
He said Malacañang wanted Congress to ensure that the budget will equitably respond to the needs of the entire nation and not certain people only. —WITH A REPORT FROM CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO
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