Arroyo’s district gets P2.4B in House-approved 2019 budget

MANILA, Philippines – The second district of Pampanga, which House Speaker Gloria Arroyo represents, has an allocation of P2.4 billion in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) approved by the House of Representatives.

This was revealed in a partial list of pork barrel insertions Senator Panfilo Lacson presented during the Senate budget deliberations on Wednesday, December 5, but he said he could not “absolutely say” it was Arroyo's doing.

During plenary, Lacson said House lawmakers inserted discretionary funds even after the second reading budget approval in plenary.

“The [House's] amendments they passed on second reading had alterations in the NEP [National Expenditure Program]. That is their duty to amend, but between October 3 and the date of transmittal to the Senate, meron pa silang ginalaw (they still touched some items) without going back to plenary,” Lacson said.

The senator alleged there was grave abuse of discretion on the part of House members, citing the Supreme Court ruling on the unconstitutionality of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2013.

Each of the 297 members of Congress, he said, are allocated pork barrel amounting to P60 million. Some were luckier, he said, as they got a bigger amount.

Multi-billion-peso pork?

As example, Lacson said the districts of a congresswoman and a congressman received P2.4 billion and P1.9 billion, respectively, under the House-approved GAB.

While he did not directly identify both, Lacson showed a partial list of road projects which are located in the towns of Lubao, Porac, Guagua, and Floridablanca in Pampanga. The towns are in the province’s second district, represented by Arroyo.

'Yan 'yung mga insertions (Those are the insertions). I don't know who’s from Lubao, Mr President,” Lacson said.

Lacson said the congresswoman’s district, under the National Expenditure Program and the GAB as approved on second reading, was allotted P726.7 million. The amount, however, increased to more than 100%, P2.4 billion, in the 3rd and final reading. This includes a budget of P500 million for 69 farm-to-market roads in just one district.

Asked if it was really Arroyo, Lacson said he could not "absolutely say" it was the Speaker's fault because somebody might have inserted it for her.

“It’s all there. Kung saan district 'yun, di kung sino 'yung district representative. I cannot absolutely say na sa kanya 'yun. Baka iba 'yung nag-insert doon para sa district na 'yun. But logic dictates…siyempre you take care of your district,hindi ba?” Lacson told reporters in an interview during the break of the budget debates, where he questioned pork barrel insertions in the proposed P3.757 trillion 2019 budget.

(It's all there, the districts, so the district representative. I cannot absolutely say that it was her doing because others might have inserted it for her district. But logic dictates....of course, you take care of your district.)

Rappler sought Arroyo's camp for comment, but she has yet to reply as of posting time.

As for the congressman, Lacson said the lawmaker was allotted P360.4 million under the NEP, which increased to 1.9 billion by final reading.

Asked about his identity, Lacson only said the district was in Camarines Sur and said he is not saying it is House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya.

Lacson said he would push for the deletion of these insertions during the period of amendments. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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