The senior vice chairperson of the House committee on appropriations has vehemently denied Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson’s claim that congressmen allegedly inserted pork barrel in next year’s national budget.
Compostela Valley Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, the main plenary sponsor of the national budget and a senior vice chairperson of the panel, said the allocated funds under House Bill (HB) No. 8169 or the national budget for various districts, including that of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s second district of Pampanga, originated from the figures submitted by the Department of Budget during the time of former Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.
“You can’t say that it is congressional insertion because the realignments in the proposed budget were also recommended by district engineers of the DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways],” said Zamora.
“Hindi po nabuhusan ng proyekto [ang distrito ni Speaker Arroyo]. Wala pong gaanong kalaking increase. May allocation na po ang districts under the proposed budget of the President],” she said.
Zamora said it was not correct to say that Mrs. Arroyo’s district was a favored area, explaining other districts got bigger funding based on their needs.
“It’s unfair to single out the second district of Pampanga,” said Zamora. “There are other districts, too [with bigger allocations]. I just can’t name the districts [offhand].”
Lacson said he traced the alleged huge insertions in Pampanga, and the other in Camarines Sur.
Earlier, he alleged that a congressman would get an additional P1.5 billion while a congresswoman got an additional P1.6 billion in next year’s national budget.
But Zamora said that Arroyo’s district was given funding of P1.4 billion in the National Expenditure Program based on submitted budget by the DBM and the House version raised it by P500 million.
“It wasn’t increased by that much,” said Zamora. “Based on the [proposed] realignments submitted by the DPWH, it was around P500 million so it’s now P1.9 billion.”
“The increase was not necessarily done because the Speaker wanted it. The DPWH was the one that suggested which projects will be realigned,” said Zamora even as she admitted that some lawmakers lobbied for additional funds before DBM submits the NEP to the House of Representatives.
“Many congresspersons have bigger allotments [for their districts]. A lot of congressmen lobby at the Regional Development Council level,” she said. “Congressmen know what their districts need.”
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, who represents the first district of Camarines Sur, argued that the House Appropriations Committee, not Speaker Arroyo, is responsible for the P4.3 billion alleged “pork barrel” in the proposed 2019 national budget, as he belied Lacson’s claim.
Andaya also said that Arroyo actually instructed the House Appropriations Committee to equally give P60 million to each congressman.
“Ang instruction was only pantay-pantay. Tanda ko pa nga iyung terminolohiya na ginamit, iyung ‘bare minimum,’” he told radio DZMM.
(The instruction was to give equal funding. I remember that the terminology used was “bare minimum.”)
Andaya also denied that he asked additional funding for road projects in his district.
He said that he even urged the appropriations panel to refrain from making insertions in the budget without notifying the Senate.
The committee, however, did not heed his advice, Andaya said and instead, may have displayed “misplaced generosity” when it granted the requests of public works regional directors for funding for flood control projects in Pampanga and road projects in Camarines Sur, he said.
“Mukhang naging, let’s say, misplaced generosity. Ang napuruhan tuloy ay iyung taong nagpipigil pa,” Andaya said.
(It seems that it became, let’s say, a case of misplaced generosity so that those who tried to stop the insertions are now under fire.)
As this developed, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte can use his veto power on the supposed ₱2.4-billion “pork” allocated for Arroyo’s district in Pampanga, if he feels there is a violation.
“What is important to me is whether those allocations are geared for the benefit of the constituents to where they are assigned,” Panelo said.