Cayetano allies’ claim on budget cut an ‘attempt to antagonize’ Velasco — House leaders
MANILA, Philippines — Leaders of the House of Representatives on Tuesday slammed the latest move of former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s allies to “antagonize” Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
They were referring to the Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor — a staunch Cayetano ally — and his accusation that the current House leadership slashed P20 billion from the P172.9 billion budget proposed by the Department of Budget and Management for the 2021 pension and gratuity fund (PGF) for retired military and police personnel.
Defensor claimed the reduction of the budget “largely affected the payment of the 2018 pension differentials.”
Deputy Speaker and Negros Oriental Rep. Arnie Teves said Defensor’s accusations were “part of an obvious attempt to antagonize Speaker Velasco.”
“It was obviously premeditated with some members of the so-called ‘BTS sa Kongreso’ present to interpellate Defensor and tried but failed to amplify the allegations against Speaker Velasco,” he said in a statement.
Teves said the plan was to make Velasco to “look bad in the eyes of President Duterte” by attacking him on an issue “very close” to Duterte’s heart.
During Monday’s plenary, where Defensor made his claims, House appropriations committee chairperson Eric Yap explained that the P20 billion cut from the PGF was used to help in the country’s coronavirus measures such as procurement of vaccines and supplies, among others.
Yap also revealed that there was also a P70 billion budget cut under the PGF in the 2020 budget when Cayetano was still the Speaker.
In answer to this, Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab, who was then the appropriations chair in 2020, bared that the 2020 national budget was finalized at the office of Cayetano and his allies, particularly then Deputy Speaker for Finance Luis Ray Villafuerte, were responsible for the P70 billion cut in the 2020 PGF.
With this, Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza called out Cayetano’s camp for its “hypocrisy.”
“The motive in the first place smacks of utter hypocrisy Cayetano’s group is so notorious of,” Atienza said in a statement.
“Umaalma sila sa binawas na P20 billion na napunta naman sa COVID-19 response ng gobyerno pero ‘yung P70 bilyon at kabuuang P209 bilyon na tinapyas nila sa 2020 national budget e okay lang sa kanila,” the Buhay Party-list representative added.
For his part, Defensor, in a statement on Tuesday, said the P20 billion cut from PGF was not diverted to Covid-19 vaccine procedure, but instead to “pork” and other things.
He explained that the vaccine procurement fund approved by Congress in the 2021 budget was P2.5 billion. Congress also allocated an additional P172 billion but lodged it in the “unprogrammed” part of the outlay.
“Through the bicam, Congress juggled at least P182 billion in appropriations recommended by President Duterte in his version of the budget. None of that, not even a centavo or peso, was added by the two chambers to the Palace-recommended P2.5-billion vaccine procurement fund,” Defensor said.
“The huge amount of realignments, including the P20 billion for military and police retirees, went to “pork” and other things, but not vaccine,” he added.
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