2 solons blame Palace for P52-B pork insertions
The camp of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday said Malacañang was behind the P52-billion “parked” funds suspected to be pork for lawmakers in the P3.757-trillion proposed national budget for 2019.
Pork refers to lump-sum appropriation for pet projects of congressmen and senators, and is a source of kickbacks.
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, former House majority leader under Alvarez’s speakership, said the projects to be funded by the P51.7-billion appropriation were contained in the National Expenditure Program (NEP)—the basis of the spending bill currently being debated in the House.
“I do not have any knowledge or information about such ‘park[ed] funds.’ Anyone can see that in my district, all items are specific projects with specific amounts and there is no lump-sum project,” Fariñas said in a statement.
Submitted by President
“Moreover, all the said projects are/were in the NEP submitted by the President,” said the former majority leader.
“Please note that we had a change of leadership at or about the time of the submission of the NEP (the day of the State of the Nation Address [Sona] or immediately thereafter),” he added.
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo replaced Alvarez on the day President Duterte delivered his third Sona in July.
Minority Leader Danilo Suarez earlier disclosed another “parking scheme” in which a congressman would insert appropriations for multimillion-peso projects in the district of another congressman. The funds would be reclaimed later.
Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said there were no lump-sum allocations as all projects to be funded were itemized on the proposed budget.
Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc denounced what they described as “the gall of Malacañang and some solons” in inserting the P51.7-billion appropriation for projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“We in the Makabayan bloc demand that the said P51.7-billion pork to be rechanneled to restore the budget cuts for basic services,” the lawmakers said in a statement.
They said people should not have to go to lawmakers but go directly to agencies to claim the services they need. “This lessens patronage politics.”
They accused President Duterte and the Department of Budget (DBM) of “callousness” for making budget cuts on essential services, like the P51 billion from the Department of Education (DepEd), the P36 billion from the Department of Health (DOH), and the P548 million from state universities and colleges (SUCs).
No budget for mass housing
They noted that no fund had been allocated for mass housing for the poor. “This is the height of insensitivity and must be corrected.”
At a press briefing, ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro said the new House leadership should eradicate the lump sums and divert them to social services.
“We are ashamed of what happened here in Congress. The Supreme Court had already ruled against pork barrel, but until now it is still being practiced,” Castro said.
The House, sitting as the committee of the whole, amended on Tuesday the report of the appropriations committee on the budget bill by realigning most of the P51.7 billion to other items under the DPWH,
The committee of the whole diverted the rest to the DepEd, SUCs, DOH, Department of Agriculture, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, House appropriations committee chair, insisted that there was no pork or lump-sum appropriation in the spending bill.
Nograles said all proposed projects had passed through the regional development councils and had been vetted by the DBM.