Incoming Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has said there will be no ‘unlimited’ congressional entitlements for each lawmaker under the soon to be proposed P3.3- billion national budget for 2017.
“It cannot be unlimited due to the number of congressmen,” Alvarez told a radio interview. “One cannot have a bigger budget than the other,” Alvarez said as he confirmed that the allocation for each lawmaker would be P80 million.
But Alvarez maintained there is “no pork” under his leadership.
“I never said that members of the House of Representatives ‘will be entitled to their usual district allocations.’ The Supreme Court has already ruled against such lump sum allocations,” Alvarez said.
“What I said was that congressmen will be allowed to propose projects needed in their districts so they can be included in the line budgeting of the General Appropriations Act [GAA],” Alvarez, representative of Davao del Norte, said.
Alvarez said the function of identifying priority projects is inherent in members of the House of Representatives because “the people go directly to us to tell us what projects are badly needed by their communities.”
“This is the reason why the framers of our Constitution made sure that budget-setting starts at the House,” he said. “We congressmen are at ground zero, so to speak.”
Alvarez also reiterated that the budget for the projects approved for inclusion in the General Appropriations Act would be given to the agencies of the government that will implement them.
“The Duterte administration has a strong anti-corruption program. Woe to the lawmaker who will propose a project with the end-in-view of making money out of it in the manner it was done in the past through under-the-table commissions from implementors,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said that the misimpression may have arisen from the P80 million cap that had been proposed for each legislative district per year, divided between infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, school buildings; and non-infra expenditures like medicines.
“Putting a cap on project costs is realistic because public funds are limited and thus must be used judiciously. We want bang for the buck to get the most benefit for our people,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez also declared “corruption has no place under this administration.”
“We in government cannot take or even consider a single centavo of taxpayers’ money as our due,” Alvarez said.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno will submit to Congress the proposed P3.3-trillion national budget for 2017 on August 15.