MANILA - Three allies of President Rodrigo Duterte in the lower chamber will get the biggest allocations for public works projects under the proposed 2019 budget, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya said Tuesday.
Former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez's district got the biggest budget with P5 billion; former Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles' district got P4 billion, while former Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas' district got P3.5 billion, Andaya said in a letter to Duterte.
"Close scrutiny of the 2019 budget during the House deliberation showed huge funding spikes in other favored districts," Andaya said, adding that many of these projects were not recommended by the regional development councils.
"What the present House leadership did was, in a manner compliant with all laws, to purge the budget of development favoritism and as much as possible apportion next year's spending to all districts in a fair manner," he added.
The letter was a response to the Palace's queries regarding the alleged insertions in the General Appropriations Bill for 2019, which include the districts of Andaya and Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Andaya said Arroyo's district in Pampanga only ranked 60th at the House of Representatives in terms of appropriation for DPWH budget.
He said his district in Camarines Sur only ranked 110th.
Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier said Arroyo's district cornered a total P2.4 billion budget allocation for projects, while Andaya's district got P1.9 billion. He said these insertions may still be considered "pork barrel."
The Camarines Sur representative earlier cited alleged red flags to show that the 2018 national budget was "rushed," even comparing it to how the present House leadership scrutinizes the proposed budget for 2019.
Andaya also alleged that in 2018, a single contractor from Bulacan cornered infrastructure contracts in Bicol, even if it was not qualified for the job.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace appreciates Andaya's explanation, and said they leave it to Congress to scrutinize the 2019 budget amid allegations of questionable insertions.
"We leave it to Congress to scrutinize, review and deliberate on the budget and make the necessary corrections, amendments or adjustments to ensure that all constituents, regardless of districts and political or party affiliations of lawmakers, are given equal opportunity for growth, progress and access to services," he said.
report from Zandro Ochona and Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News