MANILA - The Plenary session of the House of Representatives has been stalled Monday amid talk that Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles will be removed as chairman of the Appropriations Committee—a position in which he works on the budget annually.
The plenary session began at 10 a.m. but was immediately suspended after the national anthem and silent prayer, on the motion of floor leader and Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy.
Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was spotted on the floor in a huddle with congressmen before she left the plenary.
Majority Leader Rolando Andaya was attending a meeting in Arroyo's office, as of press time.
Three ABS-CBN sources said Nograles would likely be removed after he called for a closed door meeting with congressmen this morning to prepare for the budget deliberations, with some officials of executive agencies in attendance.
Senior Vice Chair Maricar Zamora is expected to take over as new chairman of the committee, the sources said.
The same sources said Andaya joined the meeting only to tell them that the meeting was not sanctioned by Arroyo. The meeting is not in the official schedule of committee meetings for today released by the House of Representatives to the media.
The meeting supposedly led to a shouting match between Nograles and Andaya over the matter of some P50 billion in funds allegedly parked by the previous House leadership in the budgets of certain agencies for some 30 congressmen.
Sources said Andaya is preparing a committee report on the budget that removes the parked funds. Nograles reportedly questioned the removal, saying it was not sanctioned by the executive branch.
The same sources claim Nograles even told congressmen to check his claims with Executive Secretary Salvador Meedialdea.
However, an ABS-CBN source said inquiries by the House leadership with the Palace revealed that the amount Nograles is defending does not refer to the projects Malacañang specifically asked for.
Neither the House leadership nor Nograles responded to inquiries for comments. Nograles was among the committee chairmen under ousted Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who were allowed to stay under Arroyo.
PROVINCES SHOULDN'T LOSE FUNDS, SAYS NOGRALES
Nograles, for his part, said his detractors can have his position, but they must be stopped from funneling funds away from the provinces.
"If anybody wants to remove me as Chair of the Committee on Appropriations, then they can have the position, but they cannot be allowed to make the President break his promise to our people, and they cannot be allowed to deprive millions of Filipinos in so many provinces nationwide of the programs and projects that our kababayans and my fellow probinsyanos need, by tinkering with the budget. This budget is for the needs of our people," he said in a statement.
He added that the minority leader "cannot speak for the majority coalition, and has in fact already withdrawn his previous statement."