MANILA, Philippines - A squabble among President Aquino's allies in Congress is threatening to derail the swift passage of the 2011 national budget.
The House of Representatives in plenary was already about to approve on 2nd reading the 2011 budget of the Presidential Communications Operations Office when Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia stood up and moved to suspend deliberations over the budget.
His motion was immediately seconded by several Visayan congressmen, leaving limited time for floor leader Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin to move to suspend the session, and Deputy Speaker Raul Daza of Samar to act on the motion to suspend.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone explained that the Visayan bloc of 58 lawmakers from Regions 6,7 and 8 had misgivings on the 2011 national budget.
Figures showed that the Visayas region is set to get only 7.7% of the P1.6-trillion budget for 2011, against Mindanao’s 10%, Luzon’s 16.3%, and the National Capital Region’s 3.6%.
The congressmen questioned the 31.7% lump sum for the central offices of the executive department, which can be spent at the discretion of the agency heads.
Evardone also said that the Mindanao bloc of 58 congressmen will meet over lunch on Thursday to discuss the budget.
He warned though that congressmen from both Visayas and Mindanao may not attend sessions and question the quorum as a protest in case their concerns are not addressed.
Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Rolando Andaya said they will just have to explain to their colleagues that despite the allocations, their districts will not be shortchanged of appropriations.
House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, for his part, was forced to take to the floor and address the concerns of his colleagues.
The squabble happened on the 3rd day of plenary debates.
Belmonte has cancelled his press briefing set for Thursday.
The indignant majority congressmen, however, assured this conflict will not shakeup the leadership of Belmonte and their alliance with President Aquino.