Lawmakers defend Arroyo, deny 'pork insertions'

Keith A. Calayag
“WORST draft ever.”This was how retired judge Meinrado Paredes described the draft federal constitution that the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading on Tuesday, Dec. 11.This,

HOUSE Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. on Friday, December 7, defended House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from accusations that the bulk of the alleged "insertions" in the proposed 2019 budget went to a district in Pampanga that she represents.

Andaya, in a press conference on Friday, said Arroyo’s district ranked about 100th among the congressional districts which received huge allocations for 2019.

On Monday, Senator Panfilo Lacson informed the Senate of alleged anomalous allocations, which he called "pork", that went to certain districts from Camarines Sur and Pampanga.

He said the allocation for Camarines Sur ballooned to P1.9 billion from P360 million and the allocation for Pampanga increased to P2.2 billion from P726 million.

According to Lacson, the discretionary funds were inserted even after the approval of the proposed 2019 budget on second reading.

“I’d just like to clarify yung mga news reports na lumalabas regarding the certain allocations of two representatives. Diretsuhin na po natin I think the persons referred to are the Speaker and myself na lumalabas na napalaki ng allocation na binigay sa mga distrito,” Andaya said.

“Just to clarify ang allocation ng ating speaker, she’s actually ranked about 100. Around 99 congressmen na mas malaki po ang allocation sa kanilang distrito,” he added.

He refused to identify these lawmakers but said that the top district got P8 billion.

Asked if it is a district in Davao, the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte, he answered in jest: “[It’s in the] Philippines.”

Andaya further clarified that his district ranked 186th among the other districts in terms of budget allocations.

He said Arroyo does not have a hand in the supposed insertions for her district. He said it was the small group tasked to discuss the individual amendments to the proposed 2019 budget which placed the generous amount with the Speaker’s district.

Andaya is among the members of the said committee, along with House committee on appropriations acting chair Maria Carmen Zamora, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, aside from others.

“Para maklaro lang na hindi ganoon ang nangyari, hindi nga po pinayagan ng ating speaker na galawin yung allocation na yan dahil naiintindihan din niya na may pangangailangan ang ating kasamahan.”

“Pero yun nga yung small group napansin nga na napakaliit ng ranking ng ating speaker. Siguro sa kanilang kagandahang loob, sinubuhan nilang ipantay doon sa allocation nila na palagay ko hanggang ngayon mas malaki pa rin ang alokasyon nila kesa sa ating speaker,” Andaya said.

“Yun na nga e, hindi naming hiningi pero nilagay doon, in-approve ng plenaryo...” Andaya further added.

Zamora also denied Lacson's claims earlier.

“I don’t agree na nabuhusan ng proyekto ang distrito ng Pampanga because ganun pa rin kung ano ang nasa NEP. Almost the same lang naman. Walang ganung kalaking pinagbago,” she said in a press conference Thursday, December 6.

According to Zamora, there is around P1.4 billion allocated for Arroyo’s district as proposed by the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) under the NEP. She said the House of Representatives’ version increased it by only P500 million for a total of P1.9 billion.

“Based dun sa records namin, I think, if you’re referring to the district of the Speaker, the proposal based on NEP is nasa around P1.4-Billion, and in the GAB (General Appropriations Bill) 3rd Reading hindi naman siya nag-increase ng sobrang laki as alleged by...”

“Based dun sa ating nakita, based on the recommendation also on the realignment ng DPWH nasa increase natin ng mga 500.”

Zamora also denied that there is a huge increase in the allocation for the district of Andaya: “walang nag-increase na ganun kalaki, more than P1 billion as alleged by the good senator.”

Zamora said there are no insertions but only “realignment” of the budget. She said these realignment were made by House of Representatives upon the recommendation of district engineers from the DPWH.

Coop-Nattco Representative Anthony Bravo, who is also a member of the small committee that amended the NEP proposed by the executive, also defended the Speaker.

Bravo said it is not only the Speaker’s budget that increased.

“Again, I would like to state that it’s not only the district of the Speaker. There are still other districts that were re-aligned project and in fact there are also other district that [received] additional fund as identified by the DPWH," Bravo said during the same press conference.

Zamora said the Senate and the House of Representatives will settle the disagreeing provisions of the measure during the forthcoming bicameral conference committee hearing on the proposed 2019 budget.

“Kung ano man ang hindi napagkasunduan ngayon, I think at the end of the day magkakasundo ang both Houses so that we would be able to deliver what is due to our people,” said Zamora. (SunStar Philippines)