Andaya quits as majority leader after irking Palace
Defiant to the end, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. on Monday relinquished his post as majority leader of the House of Representatives, ending days of speculation about his place in the administration after a highly public feud with Malacañang over the 2019 spending bill.
The House leader nominated his own replacement, Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro of Capiz province, to take over the post, allowing Andaya to assume the chairmanship of the appropriations committee and to continue his watch over the passage of the general appropriations bill.
“As chairman of the appropriations committee, I intend to utilize my last few days in Congress ensuring that the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) is transparent, fair to all and responsive to the needs of our people,” said Andaya, who is running for governor of Camarines Sur in the midterm elections in May.
“If transparency and accountability in the GAA will be my only legacy as House leader, so be it,” he said.
Hours after Andaya announced that he was stepping down as majority leader, Malacañang urged Andaya to stop waging a “media propaganda war” against Diokno.
Andaya has accused Diokno of orchestrating the “insertion” of some P75 billion in the proposed budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) supposedly to favor his in-laws in Sorsogon province.
Run-in with Diokno
“If he has problems with the current budget secretary, we hope that he would look for an appropriate venue by just filing a case against him in the court of law,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Andaya made several allusions to his run-in with Diokno.
“We were confronted with two choices: Rubber-stamping the passage of a greatly flawed budget on time, or using more time to craft a better one purged of its inborn defects,” he said.
“If we choose the path of surrender and subservience, then such legislative haste would have surely led to budgetary waste. We cannot pass a budget marinated in flood control funds, or drowning in DBM-inserted infrastructure projects, which the DPWH remains clueless about,” Andaya said.
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said on Jan. 14 at the resumption of the Senate hearings on the proposed national budget for 2019 that he came to know about the additional funding for the DPWH only after he received a copy of the National Expenditure Program, or the executive’s proposed budget.
But Panelo said the next day that Villar was aware of the extra funds for his department as he was present at the Cabinet meeting where Diokno presented the national budget proposal.
The Senate approved the P3.8-trillion proposed budget for 2019 on Monday. The spending bill had been delayed in the House because of last-minute allocation of pork to favored lawmakers, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
The Senate and the House next hold a conference to reconcile their versions of the budget bill.
Andaya said he was under orders to complete what he had started insofar as ensuring a clean budget.
“The House leadership under Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has accepted my offer to relinquish my post and lead the contingent tasked to complete one major unfinished business left in our legislative calendar: the passage of the 2019 national budget,” he said.
“I have been given orders: from the GHQ (general headquarters) to the front lines. I volunteered for this mission, knowing fully well that the place of honor is in the front lines,” Andaya said.
Castro, in succeeding Andaya, has kind words for the outgoing majority leader.
“I will try my best to [fill] his shoes. I will try my best on how to serve the House of Representatives within my humble capacity,” he said.
Castro, speaking to reporters before the leadership change, said President Duterte had no hand in Andaya’s resignation.
“Malacañang has nothing to do with this,” he said.
Asked how this developed, he said: “It’s part of the agreement or understanding between two gentlemen.”
“That was agreed long before… before Congressman Andaya assumed the position as majority leader,” Castro said.
The Palace distanced itself from what it called the “political intramurals” in the House.
“We respect its independence, including its internal rules and affairs,” Panelo said. —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO
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