A HOUSE leader yesterday pointed out that Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ranked 100th among the 292 members of the House of Representatives, which belies the insinuation that Mrs.Arroyo got a huge congressional allocation under the 2019 P3.757-trillion national budget.
House Majority Floor Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Rules, said a maximum P8-billion fund was placed for the projects of a lawmaker that he did not identify.
He revealed this to deny Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson’s claim that Mrs. Arroyo’s district allegedly cornered huge funds.
Andaya admitted that he and Mrs. Arroyo were the two lawmakers being referred to by Lacson in his blind item of having received huge congressional allocations under the national budget.
“I think the persons referred to are the Speaker and myself na lumalabas na napakalaki ng allocation na binigay sa mga distrito. Just to clarify ang allocation ng ating Speaker, she’s actually ranked about 100. Around 99 congressmen na mas malaki po ang allocation sa kanilang distrito. Ang sa akin naman po, I am ranked 186th sa allocation sa mga distrito,” Andaya told reporters in a press conference Friday.
Andaya maintained it was not Mrs. Arroyo but the House Committee on Appropriations that is responsible for the additional allocations in Pampanga and Camarines Sur in the House version of the proposed 2019 P3.757-trillion national budget. He said Mrs. Arroyo never asked for bigger allocations for her district and even instructed the panel to ensure an equitable distribution of funds among congressional districts based on its respective needs.
“Kung titingnan po natin ang probinsiya ng Pampanga, ‘yung kay Speaker hindi pa rin po sa kanya (ang) malaking allocation. May mas malaking allocation sa distrito sa kanya at doon naman sa akin sa Camarines Sur, ako po ang pinakamaliit na allocation sa aming pong probinsiya. Para maklaro lang na hindi ganoon ang nangyari, hindi nga po pinayagan ng ating Speaker na galawin ‘yung allocation na ‘yan dahil naiintindihan din n’ya na may pangangailangan ang ating (mga) kasamahan. Pero ‘yun nga ‘yung small group (House Committee on Appropriations) napansin nga na napakaliit ng ranking ng ating Speaker. Siguro sa kanilang kagandahang-loob, sinubukan nilang ipantay doon sa allocation nila na palagay ko hanggang ngayon mas malaki pa rin ang alokasyon nila kaysa sa ating Speaker,” Andaya explained.
Last Wednesday, Lacson said a congresswoman from Pampanga and a congressman from Camarines Sur had the biggest budget insertions in the 2019 budget with the Pampanga district getting P2.4 billion worth of projects while P1.9 billion was allocated for the Camarines Sur district.
But Andaya did not name the lawmaker whose area received P8 billion and if he or she is from the House of Representatives or the Senate.
“Yung pinakamalaki is around P8 billion,” said Andaya adding “siguro kung nahanap sa Senado, mahahanap din kung sino ‘yun” when pressed on the identity of the lawmaker.
Andaya said Lacson should also look into the allocations of all of his colleagues in the Senate or for the senators themselves to voluntarily give the breakdown of their funds that are larger than Mrs. Arroyo’s.
He said the senators already included their funds in the national budget for 2019 even before House Bill (HB) No. 8169 or the National Expenditure Program (NEP) was submitted by Malacañang to the House of Representatives.
“Siguro it would be fair na sabihin din nila (senador) at saan inilagay ‘yung pondo nila sa budget. Ang sistema na ginawa nila bago iprinisenta ‘yung budget sa Congress, napasok na po nila yung requests,” said Andaya who said that except Lacson, all senators pushed for the funding of their projects.
Andaya also shared the statement of Compostela Valley Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, the main plenary sponsor of the national budget and a senior vice chairperson of the panel. She said the allocated funds under the national budget for various districts, including that of the Speaker’s second district of Pampanga, originated from the figures submitted by the Department of Budget (DBM) during the time of former Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.
Zamora headed the small committee which was tasked to review all the proposed amendments that lawmakers submitted before the P3.757-trillion proposed national budget for 2019 was approved on third and final reading last month.