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House bloc breaking up

Makabayan weighs options: Keep pork or drop PNoy and lose perks SEVEN leftist lawmakers stand to lose P490 million in pork barrel this year or a total of P1.47 billion in three years as members of the Makabayan bloc contemplate withdrawing as allies of President Benigno Aquino III in the second half of his term. “We have supported the administration in the first three years of President Aquino, hoping that he would make good his campaign promise to uplift the lives of the poorest of the poor,” said a source from the bloc, whose vote was for withdrawal. “The first three years proved that President Aquino has reneged on his promise such as the distribution of his and his family’s Hacienda Luisita. The haciendero President also defied public clamor to pursue peace talks with the communist insurgents and refused to do something to block the rising cost of petroleum products, power and water rates and other basic commodities,” the source told the Manila Standard. “The unemployment rate is at three-year high. This despite the Palace’s pronouncements of high figures in growth rate and ratings upgrades by financial institutions. We have been saying that this was due to the President’s flawed economic policies but he and his economic managers refused to listen but continued to paint a rosy picture of the country’s economy. Tell that to the millions of jobless Filipinos whose families go hungry each day.” But the group of seven lawmakers is split on whether to remain in the majority coalition and retain their pork barrel and the chairmanship of the House committee on small and medium enterprises, which is being held by outgoing Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño. Casiño, who ran but lost the senatorial race, will be replaced by Carlos Zarate. Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, whose term also ends on June 30, will be replaced by Pamalakaya chairman Fernando Hicap. “We are weighing our options whether or not to withdraw as allies in the majority coalition. We are going to make our final decision next week,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, ACT teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio and Gabriela Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus in a joint statement. Kabataan president and lawyer Terry Ridon, who would replace Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino, already hinted at a call for the President’s ouster. During a protest-rally in Mendiola near Malacañang last Monday, Ridon’s group waved a placard that appeared like a score card, which showed a grade of “F” for President Aquino. “The President has flunked the subjects. He is a flunker as far as his administration’s policy on education such as allowing 354 private colleges and universities to impose an average increase of 10 percent in tuition fees across the country. The highest increase is at 50 percent,” Ridon said. “We will see if this could lead to the call for ouster.” The group was also vocal in its criticism of the government’s plan to privatize 26 public hospitals and more than 600 water districts nationwide. Each congressman, including the party-list representatives, receives an annual allocation of P70 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund, more popularly known as pork barrel. As part of the majority coalition, the House members are entitled to endorse other projects that can be allocated and disbursed by various government agencies such as the Departments of Public Works and Highways, Agriculture, Education and Health. The officials of the “party in power,” the ruling Liberal Party said the progressive bloc “cannot have their cake and eat it, too.” “It’s either they are for us or against us,” said the LP official, who requested anonymity pending the Makabayan’s final decision. But a Makabayan member-congressman said that was the sad part about President Aquino’s politics. “President Aquino’s politics is no different than Arroyo’s politics. Aquino uses the pork barrel as carrot and stick being dangled to his allies. But the public knew how to discern and understand why the President would deprive them of the pork barrel projects intended for them. After all, they are being deprived now of free access to social services, jobs, and land,” the source said. He said their constituents, for the past nine years under the Arroyo administration, were also deprived of the pork barrel allocation. “They are used to it. There’s no difference now. It’s even worse now due to the series of increases in the prices of prime commodities,” the source said. Should Makabayan withdraw, they would remain as “independent minority” who would push for legislation that they said were archived by the LP. These include the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law and Epira, the reduction of the value added tax to 6 percent and the passage of the P125 across-the-board increase in daily wages and the genuine land reform, among other what they call “pro-poor and pro-people” bills.
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