Bickering among House members related to ‘pork’ — Bayan Muna solon
MANILA, Philippines — Controversies that would come out from deliberations in the proposed 2021 national budget are surely related to unequal distribution of pork funds, party-list group Bayan Muna claimed on Friday.
According to Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, the recent quarrel between his colleagues at the House of Representatives over alleged favored funding for certain legislative districts are clearly matters of pork, as exemplified in budget discussions of previous years.
This, he said, plus other concerns stemming from supposedly unnecessary allocations to other offices, might cause delays in the passage of the budget.
“As it was before, so it is still now: Malacañang’s apparent ‘unequal distribution of pork slices’ may derail the passage of the 2021 proposed national budget,” Zarate said. “The unprecedented P4.5 billion confidential and intelligence funds of the Office of the President is of course presidential pork. The P19.1 billion budget of the NTF-ELCAC parked in different departments are generals’ pork.”
“Even the apparent disparity in the allocations of funds to the different departments, mainly the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), are of course a matter of pork. This is also the reason why many lawmakers are questioning the supposed huge allocations of projects to some areas while others did not get as much,” he added.
DPWH budget to speakership row
Zarate was referring to recent word war between Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. and Deputy Speaker Rep. LRay Villafuerte regarding variations in budget allocations with DPWH.
Teves questioned Secretary Mark Villar during DPWH’s budget hearing on Thursday whether it is true that Camarines Sur and Taguig will be getting P11.8 billion and P8 billion worth of projects, respectively.
Taguig is the legislative area represented by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his wife, Taguig 2nd District Rep. Lani Cayetano, while Villafuerte is the congressman of Camarines Sur’s 2nd District.
Teves claimed that it is well bigger than his district’s P2 billion share, despite supposedly having the eighth highest absorptive capacity.
This is not the first time that House members were embroiled in controversies during budget deliberations. In 2018, the hearings for the 2019 budget were delayed by so much because of alleged insertions in the budget and brewing conflict, where in one incident also involved Villafuerte.
But Villafuerte said Teves’ line of questioning drive at an alleged move by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco’s camp to taint Cayetano’s leadership. Velasco is expected to take over the Speakership by October, as part of the term-sharing agreement struck by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019.
The word war between the two apparently boiled over a messaging group of lawmakers, with Teves daring Villafuerte to slug it out in a fistfight.
‘Pork’ should just be allocated for COVID response
Zarate insisted though that the unequal distribution of funds, not the Speakership issue, is to blame. Instead, Zarate dared lawmakers to just allocate these towards COVID-19 response funds to help the country recover from the economic and health crisis.
“These pork-like allocations are also one of the main reasons why funds for social services like that for public hospitals, schools and social pension are being perennially being slashed,” Zarate said.
“As it is, it would indeed be better to realign all these pork-like allocations in, among others, the fight against COVID-19, in aid to those displaced and now jobless workers and help our children still study well under these current conditions,” he added.
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