House of Representatives members on Sunday lauded Speaker Gloria Arroyo for adopting a constitutionally compliant line budgeting system for the proposed P3.757 trillion national budget for 2019 to ensure a pork barrel-free national budget that is fair to all lawmakers, regardless of political affiliation.
Former speaker and now Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of Batangas and Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo cited Arroyo’s statesmanship in ensuring that no congressional districts would lose their budget allocations because they were represented by opposition.
“I praise GMA for her sense of fairness,” Belmonte said, referring to Arroyo by her initials. “There’s absolutely nothing unconstitutional about ensuring that all members of Congress, including the opposition, would get a fair share of projects for their districts. She was herself deprived of her previous position as deputy speaker for voting against the death penalty, which was to her a matter of conscience.”
Abu said the line budgeting system deals with the full and detailed disclosure of all allocations and the complete identification of all projects by each agency and department to ensure complete transparency and accountability in the government’s expenditures.
The 2019 national budget under Arroyo’s watch would not revive the lump-sum fund allocations, he added.
Castelo likened line-item budgeting to “using a powerful microscope” to allow Congress to dissect the national expenditure program, and scrutinize and remove “hidden fat.”
“Everyone should be given their fair share of allocations regardless of their political direction. These are funds for their districts, and not for the representatives. The people or constituents should not be made to suffer because of political differences,” he said.
Deputy Speaker and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said Sunday that Arroyo has already committed to being fair to all members of the House regardless of political affiliation.
In a dzBB interview, Castro said he believes Arroyo would keep her promise to end the practice of starving opposition legislative districts of funds.
“She would be fair whether you are from the minority or the majority, everyone is equal. That’s my interpretation of what she said,” he said.
“First and foremost, she is the Speaker of not only the majority, but the Speaker of the minority, too. A Speaker must always be neutral. A Speaker treats everyone equally,” he said.
Castro said Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez is still the incumbent minority floor leader until such time that the contending groups resolve the issue.
“In the meantime, we have to recognize the incumbent. Why? Because the position of the minority leader has not been declared vacant,” he said.