By Ben Rosario
A senior opposition lawmaker has blamed the re-alignment of some P51.7 billion in “parked pork barrel” funds as the reason for the failure of the House of Representatives to pass on third and final reading the proposed P3.757 trillion national budget for 2019 before the legislative break on Wednesday.
ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio claimed that the budget controversy is far from over.
This despite the fact that the Lower Chamber convened itself into a committee of the whole to recall some P51.7 billion in infrastructure funds that were allegedly inserted in congressional districts of favored congressmen.
The amount was re-aligned to various national government agencies that require additional budget to fund priority programs such as those of the Departments of Health (DOH), of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and of Education (DepEd).
Tinio claimed the “Small Committee” created to accept and study proposed amendments to the budget measure is now being flooded with numerous requests by many congressmen for the funding of their respective district projects.
“Ang sinabi namin diyan, magiging pork din ’yan. Mga pet projects ng mga kongresista, paghahati-hatiaan iyan (We know it will end up as pork barrel. Congressmen will divide them for their pet projects),” claimed Tinio.
However, Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez denied Tinio’s accusations, saying that the Small Committee, of which he is a member, is studying carefully which projects to prioritize.
The Small Committee, chaired by Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, was created prior to the second reading approval of the budget measure last week.
Its creation followed past practices in budget approval. The panel was tasked to recommend and approve budgetary amendments in order to prevent long and oftentimes contentious floor debates on the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA).
It was through the efforts of Andaya and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that the supposed parked pork barrel funds were uncovered.
The P51.7-billion allocations were distributed in large amounts and stashed in congressional districts whose congressmen were allegedly close to the group of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, the former speaker.
Suarez himself suggested additional funding for the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), pointing out that bigger project for agency will help ensure economic progress.
The lawmaker also revealed that he asked for additional allocation for the Technology and Skills Training Development Authority (TESDA) to cover for transportation and food allowances of trainees who live in in far-flung areas.
However, Tinio said the Makayan bloc is interested to know where the P51.7 billion in alleged budget inserted during the term of Alvarez as speaker will be finally allocated.
Tinio slammed the House leadership for its alleged inability to guarantee transparency in the budget process notwithstanding the fact that the Committee of the Whole conducted its deliberation and reached a decision in full view of the public in plenary session.