Budget Watch

Cayetano denies favoritism in public works funds under 2021 budget

Mara Cepeda
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano also tags as 'completely false' the accusations that his bailiwick Taguig City is getting the largest share of funds

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano denied his closest allies in the House are getting the biggest shares of the infrastructure fund in the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021. 

According to Cayetano, 7 out of the 10 districts with the highest allocations under the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are represented by legislators who “are not super close” to him.

“Medyo inaalma ko lang ‘yung campaign of lies o ‘yung paninira na ginagawa. Sabi 60% daw ng budget ng Metro Manila, napunta sa Taguig. That’s completely po false,” Cayetano said in a Facebook Live video on Monday, October 5. 

(What I’m opposing is the campaign of lies or the defamation they’re doing. They’re saying 60% of the budget in Metro Manila went to Taguig. That’s completely false.)

“Look at the top 10 po. Tinignan ko na po ‘yung top 10 sa mga distrito po na nakakuha. Seven out of 10 po ay hindi super close sa akin. Hindi mo masasabi na barkada,” he added. 

(Look at the top 10. I looked at the top 10 districts that got the highest amounts. Seven out of 10 are not super close to me. You can’t say they’re my friends.)

Cayetano went live on Facebook to respond to the accusation of his rival Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco that the Speaker is allegedly favoring his allies in the distribution of funds under the 2021 budget.

His response also came on the same day that Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr, a Velasco ally, revived his accusations that Cayetano’s bailiwick Taguig City is getting the biggest chunk of the DPWH budget. 

In a statement, Teves said Taguig City-Pateros will be getting a total of P11,113,791,000 under the 2021 budget. This is even higher than the P8 billion supposedly allocated for Taguig that Teves first floated on September 17.

Taguig City-Pateros’ two legislative districts are represented by the Speaker and his wife Lani Cayetano.

“Mas malaki pa ang pondong nakalaan para sa Taguig-Pateros kumpara sa P7.26 billion para sa buong Region IV-A o Calabarzon na pinakamalaki sa lahat ng rehiyon maliban sa NCR. Samantala, halos P1.39 billion lang ang nakalaan para sa buong Region XIII o Caraga. How is that fair and equitable?” asked Teves.

(The budget allotted for Taguig City-Pateros is much bigger than the P7.26 billion for Region IV-A or Calabarzon which is the biggest region aside from NCR. Meanwhile, only around P1.39 billion was set aside for Region XIII or Caraga. How is that fair and equitable?)

Cayetano has not provided a breakdown of the 10 districts with the highest DPWH allocations as of posting time.

But Cayetano mentioned one lawmaker on the list during his Facebook Live video: Bukidnon 3rd District Representative Manuel Zubiri.

Cayetano said he is not holding any grudges against Zubiri even if the latter was not among the 184 legislators who voted to reject his offer to resign as Speaker last week

“For example, Congressman Zubiri is one in the top 10, I think top 5 ‘no? Look at the last vote, he didn’t vote for me. But he is a very diligent, very smart, very hardworking guy, na kahit may COVID, nagpapakita sa floor (that even if there’s COVID-19, he shows up on the floor). I work well with him,” Cayetano said. 

“And walang problema (there’s no problem with that). I will support his budget whether he supports me or not.”

House members’ grumblings over the inequitable distribution of infrastructure funds in the 2021 budget triggered a power struggle in the chamber and compounded legislators’ uncertainty over the implementation of the term-sharing deal between Cayetano and Velasco.

Under the agreement brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte, Cayetano is to serve as Speaker in the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, then Velasco takes over in the 21 months after that. 

But it remains unclear when exactly Velasco’s term is supposed to begin, even after both parties met with the President to settle the term-sharing question in the chamber.

Faced with another impasse, Cayetano offered to step down as Speaker on September 30, only for his colleagues to refuse his resignation.

The 2021 budget is an election year budget. Political analysts believe keeping the speakership is crucial for Cayetano if he has any plans of running for president in 2022. (READ: In House power play, Speaker Cayetano’s Palace dreams are at stake) – Rappler.com

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.