No 'pork' but solons can itemize P80-M worth of projects: Alvarez

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 12 2016 02:29 PM

Incoming House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

MANILA - Incoming House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has confirmed that congressmen may propose and itemize as much as P80 million worth of projects for their districts in the 2017 national budget.

Alvarez said lawmakers have a say in the budget process since the budget is a law. Lawmakers have to propose projects for their constituents to address their needs.

"Hindi naman pwedeng walang limit kasi sa dami ng kongresista kung yung isa humingi ng mas malaki, kawawa naman yung [iba]," he said in a radio DZMM interview.

He added: "Hopefully maipasok natin yung P80 million per district."

Alvarez said budget allocations could go to both infra and non-infra projects.

For example, some congressmen could allocate more funds to help scholars or spend more on medicine or a regional hospital.

"Merong pondo na nakalaan para doon sa distrito na pag may nagkasakit, walang pambayad. Government hospitals naman ito. Doon na icha-charge yung pambayad ng ating mahihirap na kababayan," he said.

Alvarez, however, maintained there is no pork barrel in the 2017 budget. Pork barrel is a lump sum at the discretion of one official. The budget is prepared and reviewed by the budget department and approved by congress as a collegial body.

Alvarez said the Supreme Court has already outlawed pork barrel.

"Anong pork barrel? Sa line budgeting, walang pork barrel. Dapat basahin nila yung Supreme Court decision na nagsasabi ano yung pork barrel, ano yung hindi," he said.

"Ngayon, kami namang kongresista we are called representatives practically dahil nga nire-represent namin yung aming constituents sa district. Kung ano yung problema dito, may kailangan na school building, kailangan ng ospital, kailangan ng medisina, yun ay kailangan namin dalhin sa Kongreso yun. We have to remember that yung preparation of budget by itself is a legislation, General Appropriations Act yan. Kinakailangan namin mag-participate diyan at ipasok namin kung ano yung mga kailangan sa district namin. Walang pork barrel diyan."

The congressman said he is going around his district to find out what projects need funding. All projects that need funding must be identified in the proposed budget, he said.

WHY INVESTIGATE DRUG KILLINGS?

Alvarez said the budget process and other legislative priorities are why he is not keen on a congressional investigation into the alleged extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.

He told radio dzMM that he is unclear on what type of laws can be passed if the Senate investigates the alleged summary executions of drug suspects.

"Halimbawa, napatunayan natin mayroong summary execution. Merong paglabag sa batas. Ano naman legislation na pwede nating gawin? Unang-una, iligal na yung paglabag sa batas. Pangalawa, yun ay summary execution. Talagang iligal yun. So ano pa? Bakit pa kailangan nating imbestigahan yan?"

He noted that instead of Congress, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice could investigate the killings so that there is no duplication of the functions of the investigative organs of government.

"Mag-iimbestiga pa kami eh ang dami namang mas dapat pagkaabalahan na mas mahalagang bagay para maihatid natin yung serbisyo sa mga kababayan," he said.

"Ang problema diyan, recommendatory lang yan. Kahit anong malaman mo diyan, resulta ng imbestigasyon recommendatory ka pa rin. Pupunta ka pa sa piskalya, DOJ pa rin magsasabi kung merong probable cause o wala. Nasayang lang yung oras."

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat earlier filed a resolution to investigate the spate of drug-related killings in the country.

More than 300 people have died in killings related to illegal drugs in the past two months, according to data compiled by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group.

This is higher than the 110 drug suspects reported killed by police since President Rodrigo Duterte won the May 2016 elections.

WATCH: More than 300 dead in drug-related killings

Sen. De Lima, a former Justice Secretary and head of the Commission on Human Rights, earlier said there are "telltale signs" that some of the drug suspects being killed by law enforcers are victims of summary executions.

"Nakakaduda yung explanation na nanlaban, nang-agaw..." she said.

De Lima to SolGen: I will not be intimidated

For his part, Alvarez said he will leave it to the committee chairman to decide if Congress should investigate the killings.

He said he would rather focus on other legislative priorities like lowering income taxes, the passage of the freedom of information law, the emergency powers to address traffic in Metro Manila as well as a review of the benefits for members of the SSS and GSIS.

He also expressed openness to the proposal for a national ID system.

"Andaming bansa na gumagamit niyan, lalong lalo na yung mga sabihin mong talagang democratic countries...Ano naman problema kung meron kang ID na ano, national ID? Maganda nga yan dahil mapapabilis yung mga transactions natin in different agencies at saka yung opisina," he said.

"Susuportahan ko iyan, na sana mailabas natin sa House yan at maaprubahan."