MANILA - It’s Binay versus Roxas again.
This time, it’s the daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay who went head-to-head in a debate with Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II over the latter’s fund in the 2014 National Budget.
Senator Nancy Binay questioned the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for having a fund of at least P1 billion for housing purposes.
During the plenary session in the Senate, the younger Binay questioned the legality of the function of DILG to build houses when it is the National Housing Authority (NHA) that is mandated by law to do such task.
"Who leads in this housing project? Why not just put the funds in the housing agencies?" she asked.
"Under Executive Order 90, the NHA is in charge of housing, what is the enabling law for DILG to construct houses?" asked the daughter of the vice president, who is also the current housing czar of the government.
Finance committee chief Senator Francis Escudero, representing Roxas in the plenary session, explained that the DILG is "empowered to undertake such housing projects for the Local Government Units (LGU) under Sec 29 of the [Urban Development and Housing Act].”
Binay insisted that another law, RA 7279, "stated that it is the NHA that is tasked to provide technical assistance to LGUs.”
Escudero said, "that is non-exclusive. The administrative code also empowers the President to assign the programs and its funding.” He said there is also a Memorandum Order from President Aquino authorizing the DILG to undertake such functions.
Escudero is a former ally of the older Binay. Their relationship turned sour during the last elections when Escudero opted to bolt out of the vice president's United Nationalist Alliance in favor of Roxas' and Aquino's Liberal Party.
Roxas said the power vested in DILG to construct houses is only limited to the government’s program of relocating informal settler communities mostly from Metro Manila.
"Dahil LGU ang nanguna sa programa at ito’y ayon sa UDHA Law, at ang DILG ang may direktang kaugnayan sa mga LGUs," Roxas said.
The controversy started brewing when Aquino provided billions of funds for Roxas' use to relocate and provide houses for Informal Settler Families (ISF) when it is the NHA that has the full mandate to do such. Critics see this as a political move since Roxas is perceived to be the closest opponent of the older Binay for the 2016 presidential race.
Since the program started four months ago, Roxas said at least 5,000 ISFs living along NCR's major waterways have been relocated.
He said they hope to relocate some 23,000 families out of Metro Manila in a year’s time. "Para sa mga ISF ang pondo na yun, mostly nasa Kamaynilaan na nasa identified location na nasa alanganin at dapat mailikas," Roxas said.
DILG's budget of about P100 billion for 2014 has been eventually approved by the Senate during Monday's plenary debates.