MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said it agrees Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must explain the allocation of P2.4 billion worth of projects for her district following a supposed last-minute realignment in the proposed national budget for 2019.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said aside from the P2.4 billion that Arroyo would be getting, another P1.9 billion worth of projects was also allotted for another lawmaker from Camarines Sur.
Lacson said the amounts of the supposed “pork” were much bigger than the P60 million promised by the Speaker to each member of the lower chamber.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that while Arroyo should explain the realignment, there is nothing wrong with the allotment of a certain amount to a particular district if there is really a need for such.
“I think so, given the amount involved, given the reaction of people like you. We citizens would also like an explanation,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing when asked whether Arroyo owes an explanation about the budget insertions.
“The fact that some quarters are reacting, it behooves those who are involved in the realignment to respond to the protests of some elements in the Senate.”
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. last week admitted that Arroyo promised the allotment of P60 million for each lawmaker, but he insisted that these were not pork, which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling in 2013.
He told radio DZMM Thursday that it was the House Appropriations Committee, not Speaker Arroyo, who is responsible for the P4.3 billion alleged "pork barrel" in the proposed 2019 national budget.
He said the committee may have displayed "misplaced generosity" when it granted the requests of public works regional directors for funding for flood control projects in Pampanga and road projects in Camarines Sur, he said.
"Mukhang naging, let's say, misplaced generosity. Ang napuruhan tuloy ay iyung taong nagpipigil pa," Andaya said.
(It seems that it became, let's say, a case of misplaced generosity so that those who tried to stop the insertions are now under fire.)
House Appropriations Committee Senior Vice Chair Maria Carmen Zamora has disputed the figures released by Lacson to the media.
"Personally I do not know w here the good senator got his figures because when I checked all our records I don't see any congressperson na may ganung kalaking increase when you compare the NEP (National Expenditure Program) to the 3rd reading version natin sa Congress," she said.