Some congressmen ‘unhappy’ over district projects in 2020 budget–Villafuerte
MANILA, Philippines—A ranking member of the House of Representatives, who withdrew the proposed P4-trillion 2020 national budget from the chamber’s agenda because it was “premature”, said there were grumblings from some congressmen over distribution of funds to districts.
Camarines Sur Rep Luis Raymund Villafuerte, now deputy Speaker for finance, said some congressmen were unhappy over projects listed for their districts in the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020. Villafuerte said the congressmen were concerned over distribution of funds to districts.
Villafuerte, though, said the unhappiness was normal and does not equate to amendments to the Malacañang proposal.
Villafuerte said he understood his colleagues’ sentiments. “Number one, there are projects that they feel are not a priority so they want to change these, they want to lobby. For example with public works, if it’s possible to change the projects. That’s being done. But it doesn’t mean that they complained, that they would prevail,” Villafuerte said in Filipino.
“Secondly (sic) there are districts that, as per discussion (sic) should be equitably distributed. There are others who know there are small and there are big but that’s subject for discussion,” he said, still in Filipino. “It doesn’t mean there are complaints, there are amendments,” he said.
Villafuerte said he doesn’t know yet the number of unhappy House members, but a handful had raised this unhappiness during the first two weeks of budget briefings led by the appropriations committee that started on Aug. 22.
Villafuerte expressed confidence that the House remains on track in passing the proposed 2020 national budget on time. He withdrew it on Aug. 28 with the approval of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who will relinquish his post after 15 months in a term-sharing deal with Marinduque Rep. Lord Velasco.
Villafuerte said withdrawing the budget bill was just “procedural.”
“I said premature. Why? Because while we’re still having briefings, it’s already filed. It won’t look good, it’s not over yet, it’s going to be filed already,” he said. “It’s too much fast tracking, like we’re being stripped of the power to hear and make suggestions,” Villafuerte added.
Appropriations panel chair and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab opposed the withdrawal, saying this would derail the budget passage and lead to insertions by congressmen of items which could be a source of kickbacks.
Villafuerte belied the allegations of pork-barrel insertions.
He said the House was not intimidated by possible criticisms from Sen. Panfilo Lacson, an anti-pork champion.
“Because if Senator Lacson saw something wrong as of today, I think he would have mentioned it already,” Villafuerte said.
“And we’re also very cautious, we know it. That’s why, like it was said, everything transparent,” Villafuerte said in Filipino.
“If ever there are changes, media will see it, Senator Lacson and everyone,” he said. “If ever there are, I’m not saying there is, everyone will see. Definitely no pork, no parking, no insertions,” he added./TSB
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