House committee head denies solons fighting over ‘pork’ in 2021 budget

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2020 01:33 PM

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano attends a hearing at the Batasan Pambansa Session Hall in Quezon City on May 26, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The leader of the House appropriations panel denied Monday that lawmakers are bickering over the distribution of supposed pork funds in the 2021 national budget. 

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate recently said the huge allocation of funds under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in some areas, while others did not get as much, is “of course a matter of pork.”

Lawmakers have a right to seek more funds for their legislative districts while other areas get less, said ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap.

“Iyong mga pinag-aawayan is iyong mga para sa parochial concerns. For example, sa Benguet, ako iyong congressman ngayon. Karapatan ko na makiusap sa executive, baka puwede niya kaming lagyan ng dagdag na kalsada, dagdag na tulay, iyong mga kailangan namin sa probinsya namin,” he told ANC. 

(The arguments are about parochial concerns. For example, in Benguet, I have a right to ask the executive if it could give us more roads, bridges, whatever we need in our province.)

“Hindi naman ibig sabihin, pork ito, na iyong pera sa amin ibinigay. Hindi po. Sa kalsada po ito, sa ospital,” he said. 

(This does not mean that this is pork, that these funds were given to lawmakers. These will go to roads, hospitals.)

The distribution of funds has never been even, he said. 

“Kung ang Batanes, magkakaroon din siya ng P8 billion, saan po nila ilalagay na infra iyon?” he said. 

(If, for example, Batanes will also get P8 billion, for which infrastructure project will they use that?)
 
The House majority will hold a caucus later Monday to iron out issues about the budget, which they aim to pass to the Senate before the Congress break on Oct. 14, said Yap.

He said lawmakers were encountering a delay in the budget deliberation due to the supposed P469 billion worth of lump sums and redundant items in the DPWH budget that Sen. Panfilo Lacson flagged.

Two lawmakers earlier argued about Taguig and Camarines Sur allegedly getting a large share of DPWH funds. 

The 2 districts of Taguig are run by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his wife Lani, while one of CamSur's districts is represented at the House by LRay Villafuerte, a close ally of the Speaker. 

The P11 billion worth of projects for Taguig were supposed to be implemented this year and were derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. Their funding was "carried over" to next year's budget, explained Yap. 

Camarines Sur, meanwhile, has 5 legislative districts, which means that its P11-billion infrastructure will be divided among 5 lawmakers, he said.

Sen. Franklin Drilon said lawmakers “cannot delay the budget for 2021” given the economy’s plunge into recession and the unemployment of millions of Filipinos.

The lack of spending authority for the government will force it to rely on a reenacted budget, which will not fund new programs including those for the pandemic, he said in a separate ANC interview.