Alvarez defends budget cuts for opposition lawmakers
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday, December 21, confirmed that allocations for the districts of several lawmakers had been slashed from the 2018 budget.
Alvarez defended this move, saying the funds were reallocated for full tuition subsidy in state colleges and universities and for the salary increases for uniformed personnel “who are on the frontlines of the government's war against terrorism and criminality.”
The final list of districts affected by the last-minute reallocation of funds is not yet available. The final version of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2018 – as approved by the bicameral conference committee and signed by President Rodrigo Duterte – has yet to be made public.
The total amounts of cuts and the specific projects that were either defunded or saw reduced funds remain unclear. (READ: Opposition congressmen get zero budget in 2018)
Among those reportedly affected are legislators belonging to the "Magnificent 7," an independent bloc composed of Liberal Party (LP) members and allies representing both party-list organizations and districts.
Also affected are several LP members who are part of the Alvarez-led "supermajority."
Taking a swipe at critics
Albay 1st District Representative Ecdel Lagman, who leads the Magnificent 7, was first to go public with the allegation that some 24 legislators who were dissenters in the House saw their funds slashed in the 2018.
Alvarez responded: “Let me point out that Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a leader of the opposition in Congress, has projects worth a total of P3.8 billion in his district. We would be very happy to hear from him where this huge funding has gone.”
Allocations for projects in districts – particularly involving infrastructure – appear as line items in the 2018 budget. Following a scandal years back involving the pocketing of legislators' pork barrel, lump sums have been removed from the budget, or should no longer be there, although some legislators claim the pork has taken other forms in the current budget.
The progressive Makabayan bloc denied funds for their projects were slashed, pointing out that they do not get funding from Congress in the first place.
The Speaker confirmed that, but still took a swipe at Makabayan, insinuating the Leftist lawmakers could be getting funds from the "revolutionary taxation” done by the New People’s Army.
The bloc hit Alvarez for the “malicious and dangerous red tagging” in the statement.
The Makabayan bloc includes ACT Teachers representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Gabriela representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao, and Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago.
The bloc was once part of Alvarez’ supermajority but later bolted it, citing differences with the administration.
Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio Floreindo – an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte but an enemy of Speaker Alvarez – said his district is getting zero budget as well. He slammed Alvarez for political vendetta. – Rappler.com