Lagman twits Alvarez over removal of opposition lawmakers' project funds

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 21 2017 05:44 PM

MANILA - Opposition Lawmaker, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has hit back at House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez after the latter confirmed removing project allocations of non-allied lawmakers from the 2018 national budget.

"The Speaker's mantra on life is vengeful and capricious as it disrespects responsible dissent and punishes those who espouse differing views. Minority positions are not appreciated and accommodated in the Speaker's concept of life which seeks to impose servile unanimity," Lagman said in a statement.

Lagman earlier accused Alvarez of ordering the removal of projects in the constituencies of "critical" and "wayward" lawmakers from the 2018 national budget due to "vengeance."

In response to such a claim, Alvarez said "that's life" and that he had to make sure that his allies' allocations and needs were addressed. He also claimed that this was a practice done by previous administrations. 

"This cavalier response of Speaker Alvarez is an admission that he was the mastermind of the blatant last-minute highjacking of previous allocations in the General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which was approved on third reading by the House of Representatives," said Lagman.

"This also reveals a discriminatory and flawed perception of life wherein partisan allies are vastly rewarded and opposition Representatives are utterly deprived, irrespective of the compelling needs of their respective districts," he added.

Lagman was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in a previous congress while he was with the Lakas CMD during the Arroyo Administration.

He was with the opposition in the early part of the Aquino administration before joining Aquino's Liberal Party after a spat with Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez over the minority leadership when Lakas was minority during the Aquino administration.

Now, Lagman is a member of the independent bloc with fellow LP lawmakers Edgar Erice, Emmanuel Billones, Teddy Baguilat, Raul Daza and their party-list allies Tom Villarin of Akbayan, and Gary Alejano of Magdalo. 

Alvarez told ABS-CBN he cut the project allocations of all, except for Daza.

In an earlier statement, Alvarez took a potshot at Lagman and supposed projects worth a total of P3.8 billion in his district. 

"We would be very happy to hear from him where this huge funding has gone," he said.

Lagman, however, said Alvarez's allegation was "utterly preposterous."

"How could an opposition Representative propose and be accorded this amount of projects? The leadership of the House and Appropriations Committee advised me to submit, probably like most other Representatives, P50-M and later an additional P20-M for hard infrastructure projects for my district to be included in the 2018 Genereal Approrpiations Act (GAA)," he said.

He said the bulk of other essential infrastructure projects intended for his district were allocated by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for its 'Build, Build and Build' policy.

"The implementation of infrastructure projects in my district is completely aboveboard and the funds are fully accounted for by DPWH and the Commission of Audit (COA)," he said.

Alvarez stood his decision to cut funding for lawmakers' projects, which critics have said favored allies and deprived non-allies. 

"I also wish to emphasize that the funds slashed from some projects of the opposition and even those in the supermajority have been re-allocated to free college education in state universities and colleges and to augment the salaries and benefits of our men and women in uniform who are in the front lines of the government's war against terrorism and criminality," he said.

"I mean what I say and I am not in the habit of saying one thing and doing another. If there's money, then I'll see to it that it would be properly allocated. As much as possible, once funding for a project has been approved, then it is good to go. But in extraordinary cases we have to re-allocate funds for other priorities, such as education and the welfare of policemen and soldiers. This is what happened in the 2018 budget," he added.

Alvarez also affirmed the Makabayan bloc's claims that they never requested for projects in the first place. 

"We do not know where they get funds for projects for their constituents. All we know is that the communist rebels with whom they have an ideological and political affinity impose what's known as 'revolutionary taxation' in areas where they operate," he said.