MANILA House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. on Tuesday revealed that the allies of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez supposedly got the biggest allocations for their districts in the PHP3.757-trillion proposed national budget for 2019.
Andaya disclosed this in his letter to President Rodrigo Duterte, explaining the position of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regarding the PHP2.4 billion worth of projects allocated for her district in Pampanga.
He said the allies of the previous leadership received larger allocations than Arroyo under the 2019 national budget.
He noted that the current Speaker's district only ranked 60th, while his district placed 110th in terms of appropriations for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
"On top of the list with biggest DPWH projects is the district of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez with PHP5 billion, while the district of the former Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas was allocated PHP3.5 billion, and district of former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations Karlo Alexei Nograles received PHP4 billion," Andaya said.
He said the DPWH leadership reportedly knew nothing about these "huge funding spikes in other favored districts".
He further cited the National Economic Development Authority, revealing that many of these projects were not recommended by the Regional Development Councils.
"I am certain that if this fine print of the budget was brought to the President's attention by his Budget officials, he would not have countenanced it as it would violate his oft-repeated promise to the people of equal progress for all," Andaya said in his letter.
Andaya said the directive of the present House leadership is to give residents in all districts "equal opportunity for growth and the same access to services" through the national budget.
"What the present House leadership did was, in a manner compliant with all laws, to purge the budget of development favoritism and as much as possible apportion next year's spending to all districts in a fair manner," he said.
When sought for comment, Alvarez said he has no idea of Andaya's allegation regarding the DPWH funds allocated for his district since he has not seen the National Expenditure Program (NEP) nor has he attended any budget hearing at the House.
"I don't know with him. I have not attended a single budget hearing. I have not even seen the NEP," Alvarez said.
Alvarez added that the preparation of the NEP is solely an executive function.
Farinas, meanwhile, also has no knowledge of the allocation for his district, noting that everything listed therein was in the NEP submitted by the President.
"I left the Majority two days after the SONA (State of the Nation Address) when I joined the Minority, and there is no way I could have added anything to it. I did not attend any budget hearing since then as I was on medical leave starting Sept. 15 when I suffered injuries from Typhoon Ompong," Farinas told reporters in a group message.
"But I will not be surprised if the amount is accurate since my district has one of the longest national highways in the country from Laoag to the boundary of Cagayan province. The bridge alone for the Laoag-Bacarra bypass road is about PHP1 billion (multi-year allocations)," he added.
Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson disclosed that a male lawmaker from Camarines Sur got at least PHP1.9 billion and Pampanga's second district received PHP2.4 billion worth of congressional insertions.
Andaya represents the first district of Camarines Sur, while Arroyo represents the second district of Pampanga.
Arroyo admitted that she felt unfairly criticized when she was singled out for getting supposedly the lion's share in the allocations per district under the national budget for next year.
"There were 60 to 90 more who got bigger than my district," Arroyo said.
"Yes, yes (I feel criticized). Why should I deprive the people of my district? I'm only upper middle class as far as the allocations are concerned," she added. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency