Nothing wrong with P4.5-trillion spending bill, Velasco allies insist
MANILA, Philippines — Allies of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said there was nothing wrong with the P4.5-trillion spending bill that it passed on Oct. 16 despite the observation of Sen. Panfilo Lacson that it contained a “noticeable” increase in the allocations for the districts of congressmen allied with Velasco.
In perusing the budget bill, which is now pending in the Senate, Lacson noted that the budget of Camarines Sur, represented by Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., who supported former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano in his recent power struggle with Velasco, was significantly decreased.
On the other hand, Lacson called out noticeable increases in the allocations for Albay, represented by Rep. Joey Salceda, and Benguet, which is under the legislative care of Rep. Eric Yap.
Both Salceda and Yap vigorously supported Velasco in the political maneueverings that resulted in Cayetano’s ouster on Oct. 13.
But Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, another supporter of Velasco who was subsequently named deputy speaker, saw nothing wrong in the shifting of funds.
“Seeing a budget assigned to Albay, for instance, is not per se questionable,” Atienza said at a virtual press briefing. “Maybe congressman Salceda has worked hard to convince the House of Representatives to allocate bigger funds to his district.”
“Appropriating money for a certain project is not illegal. It is a function now in our present system that congressmen work on the appropriations for their bridges, highways, a new street,” Atienza said.
Speaking in the same press briefing, Salceda, a former Cayetano ally who shifted alliance to Velasco, said the House of Representatives just did its work in passing the 2021 national budget.
“The congressmen know the specific or unique needs of their constituents … and we also know and understand the needs of the country,” he said.
Sought for his comment, House appropriations chair Eric Yap, also a former Cayetano ally, denied Lacson’s claim that the funds for the congressional districts of Velasco’s allies were increased.
“That is not true,” he said in a text message to the Inquirer.
Yap said that the House did not make any amendments to the budget submitted by President Duterte to Congress.
“We only accepted the amendments and errata,” he said, adding that “it is all agency-initiated.
Both Atienza and Salceda said senators’ concerns regarding the 2021 budget would be addressed during the bicameral conference committee between the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“That’s why we have a bicam to see if their observations are true,” Salceda said.
“For the senators to take note of certain observations, good, we are happy about that. That’s good to have check and balance. Anyway we will have [bicameral] committee meetings where we can reconcile our observations,” Atienza said.
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