Philippine arts

Arroyo allies got ‘pork’? But 2019 budget prepared during Alvarez time – Andaya

Mara Cepeda
Arroyo allies got ‘pork’? But 2019 budget prepared during Alvarez time – Andaya
Majority Leader Rolando Andaya says they should not be blamed for the huge insertions in the 2019 budget being alleged by Senator Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr deflected the accusation of Senator Panfilo Lacson that allies of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo received huge insertions in the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019.

Andaya on Monday, December 10, delivered a privilege speech as a response to Lacson’s allegations that the House-approved 2019 budget is riddled with pork barrel funds. 

“In the past few days, this institution, including its leadership, has been maligned wrongly in the media regarding the exercise of its inherent and constitutional power. Recently, I was informed that there was an allegation that the big allocations were the allies of our present Speaker. Madame Speaker, nothing can be further from the truth,” said Andaya.

He said the blame should not be pinned on the current House leadership, as the 2019 National Expenditure Program (NEP) was prepared during the time of ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, whom Arroyo replaced in July. 

Alvarez, however, already denied making such insertions into the 2019 budget for his allies.

“Let us all remember that when the NEP or when the budget was submitted to us, it was done under the previous leadership of the House. So logic dictates that the large allocations per district would be from the allies of the previous leadership and not from the present leadership,” said Andaya.

Lacson said that in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill approved by the House, a total of P2.4 billion was allocated for public works projects in the second district of Pampanga, the district represented by Arroyo. 

The senator also said a district in Camarines Sur, which was originally allotted P360.4 million under the NEP, now has P1.9 billion by final reading. Andaya represents the first district of Camarines Sur. 

Lacson later said that he discovered more districts – in Bohol, Surigao, and other parts of the Visayas and Mindanao – had received big allocations in the 2019 GAB. He said a “pattern” has emerged: that these districts are represented by Arroyo’s allies

Andaya previously admitted that each congressman received P60 million under the 2019 budget to fund their pet projects, while senators got P200 million each. He insisted this is not a form of the now-unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund, however, as it does not involve the post-enactment phase of the budget process.

In a press conference last week, Andaya also said 99 other legislators supposedly got higher allocations than Arroyo in the 2019 budget.

Deflecting the issue? 

But instead of directly responding to Lacson’s accusation on the 2019 budget, Andaya went on to say that Congress hastened the passage of the current 2018 budget in his privilege speech.

He said this led to the approval of several flood control projects under certain districts that supposedly did not ask for these projects. 

“No’ng 2017, ang budget ng flood control ng public works ay P73 billion. ‘Di natin alam – dahil minadali natin – no’ng 2018, ang naging budget ng flood control [ay] P123 billion, 68% increase or P50 billion increase. Eh buti na lang ho kung napunta doon sa mga lugar na may nangangailangan – sa Bulacan, sa Pampanga, sa Pangasinan, sa Metro Manila. Pero ‘pag tinignan natin, ‘di pala doon napunta,” said Andaya. 

(In 2017, the flood control budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways was at P73 billion. We didn’t realize – because we were hasty – that in 2018, the flood control budget rose to P123 billion, a 68% or a P50 billion increase. It would have been okay if it went to areas that needed flood control projects – Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Metro Manila. But when we look at it, the money the didn’t go there.)

Andaya cited Sorsogon 2nd District, which received P2 billion for flood control projects without the knowledge of its representative, Deogracias Ramos Jr. He said Catanduanes, represented by Cesar Sarmiento, also received P500 million for flood control projects that the latter was not aware of. 

The Majority Leader then said that C.T. Leoncio Construction and Trading, a single proprietorship, had cornered more than 30 public works projects in Sorsogon in 2018.

“Ayan po sample ng kontrata ‘nya, nakalagay, a sole proprietorship duly organized and existing under by virtue of the laws of the Philippines. Papaano nangyari iyon? Bilyon na kontrata, single proprietorship – that is bad business practice,” said Andaya. 

(Here is a sample of the contract, which states it is a sole proprietorship duly organized and existing under by virtue of the laws of the Philippines. How is this possible? Billions worth of contract, single proprietorship – that is bad business practice.) 

He then urged his colleagues to “stand up for us to retake the power of the purse.” 

“We have been misunderstood and misaligned all these years. We have actually managed to decrease our influence over the budget. Now with me coming out and showing you hard proof of what you know what has been done to you. Maybe it’s about time, we all as one voice, stand up and expose this sham,” said Andaya. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.