Palace denies hand in budget cuts for opposition solons

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 21 2017 05:40 PM | Updated as of Dec 21 2017 10:47 PM

MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said it had nothing to do with Congress’ move to slash the budget of lawmakers deemed unfriendly towards the administration.

This after Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, among top opposition lawmakers, alleged Wednesday that House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez ordered the removal of projects in the constituencies of "critical" and "wayward" lawmakers from the 2018 national budget. 

Those who suffered budget cuts supposedly include members of the Liberal Party who are part of the so-called supermajority of Duterte's allies in the House of Representatives.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the executive branch made no intervention in the budget process during deliberations at the legislature. 

“There is separation of powers. Congress has exclusive and primary jurisdiction in the preparation and approval of the budget,” Roque said in a news briefing.
“We had nothing to do with whatever decision both houses of Congress had on the alleged deprivation of projects as far as opposition congressmen are concerned. That’s something that should be addressed to the leadership of both houses of Congress,” he added.

Among the allegedly scrapped projects were roads and bridges leading to tourist destinations; diversion roads to decongest traffic; dikes and seawalls; and public buildings. 

Majority of these are included in the 2018 National Infrastructure Program of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) under the "Build, Build, Build" scheme.

In a phone interview with ABS-CBN, Alvarez said he had to make sure that his allies' allocations and needs were addressed. He also alleged that this was a practice done by previous administrations. 

The only difference now, he said, is that he was more transparent, unlike in previous administrations. 

He said not all 24 lawmakers who suffered budget cuts named on a list circulated among House reporters lost their projects for their districts.