Still not pork? P100 million for each lawmaker in 2020 budget

Mara Cepeda
Still not pork? P100 million for each lawmaker in 2020 budget
(UPDATED) Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, House committee on appropriations vice chair, says the executive branch determined the amount to be allotted per House member

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Members of the House of Representatives will each be entitled to at least P100 million for their pet projects under the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for 2020, a ranking House member said.

Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations and chairman of the House committee on ways and means, said this in a  Palace press conference on Wednesday, September 18. 

“Ang alam ko po diyan, to ensure na everybody has some minimum, P100 [million], yes (What I know there is that everybody has some minimum amount, P100 million, yes),” Salceda said when asked how much was allotted per congressman. 

Salceda said a big chunk of this amount or about P70 million will be set for infrastructure projects, while the remaining P30 million will be for “soft” projects like medical and educational assistance.  

This would account for about P29.9 billion of the 2020 budget, for the 299 House members.

Asked who decided on the amount, Salceda said it was the executive branch helmed by President Rodrigo Duterte. 

“Who determined it? The Executive,” he said.  

Salceda, however, was quick to point out this is not a form of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel, which the Supreme Court deemed as unconstitutional in 2013. He argued this is because every allocation is itemized in the 2020 budget. 

This was the same argument used by then-House majority leader Rolando Andaya Jr when he revealed that  House members received P60 million each while senators got P200 million each in the 2019 budget. 

Salceda denied such allocations are pork. 

“It also smells, acts, quacks like a need of my constituents…. And it also smells, quacks and acts as if it’s allowed by the Supreme Court,” said the congressman. 

But not all House members received such allocations for their constituents.

Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna said none of the 6 progressive Makabayan bloc legislators like himself got P100 million in the 2020 budget. 

He then said Salceda’s revelations smelled like pork. 

“Even itemized allotments can be considered pork barrel as long as congresspersons exercise discretion on its implementation like selecting beneficiaries and contractors. We believe this is still a violation of the Supreme Court decision,” said Zarate. 

“This is the same patronage and corruptive system used by the executive department, then and now, to keep Congress under its strong influence and pliant to its wishes,” added Zarate, who hails from Davao like the President. 

Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago confirmed being offered the allocation as well, but she refused to utilize it “in principle.” 

Like Zarate, Elago considered the amount as pork barrel.

“We have refused to utilize this allocation in principle. We have strongly opposed the ‘pork tradition’ in an effort to draw up a ‘pork-less’ national budget every budget season,” said the progressive lawmaker.  

“We solidly stand against ‘pork’ in any way, shape, or form. Even if these funds are already itemized, they are still highly vulnerable to corruption and patronage politics. Pork is still pork,” added Elago.

Multiple accusations of pork barrel insertions hounded the 2019 budget, particularly in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) allocations, causing months-long delay in its passage and leading to the reenactment the 2018 budget in the first quarter of 2019. 

Duterte was able to approve the 2019 budget only in April, but he made sure to veto the controversial multibillion-peso funds under DPWH. – 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.