Since they claim it is not pork barrel, Sen. Panfilo Lacson suggested to Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to prove their point by voluntarily relinquishing P4.3 billion funds allotted to their congressional districts.
Andaya tried to fend off accusations of his and Arroyo’s involvement in the realignments, saying these stemmed from a “misplaced gesture of generosity.”
Lacson himself discovered the P4.3 billion lump sums, consisting of P1.9 billion allotted to the First District of Camarines Sur and P2.4 billion to the Second District of Pampanga, in the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) that is under deliberation in the Senate.
Show good faith
Andaya represents the First District of Camarines Sur while Arroyo the Second District of Pampanga.
“Since Majority Leader Andaya claims that the huge earmarks for his and Arroyo’s districts are a case of misplaced gesture of generosity, maybe they can display a genuine gesture of good faith by deleting or reducing those humongous allocations,” Lacson said.
The senator urged Andaya and Arroyo to make the deletion or cut to the insertions official “by writing to the chair of finance.”
“We will most welcome that gesture of compunction from the two House leaders or a genuine gesture of good faith,” he said.
Other people’s money
Lacson issued the advice after Andaya claimed the allocations were a show of “misplaced generosity” of regional directors of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) seeking funding for road and flood control projects.
The P4.3 billion allotted to Camarines Sur and Pampanga was on top of the P60 million given to each House member for pet projects.
However, Andaya was quoted as saying the House Appropriations Committee was behind the P4.3 billion “pork” in the House version of the proposed P3.7-trillion budget for 2019.
The solon said he did not seek added funding for road projects in his district and even asked the House Appropriations Committee not to make insertions without notifying the Senate.
He claimed the committee, however, showed “misplaced generosity” and accommodated requests by regional directors of the DPWH for road projects in Camarines Sur and flood control projects in Pampanga.
No authority on funds
On the other hand, Lacson stressed that regional directors and district engineers do not have the authority to seek funding amounting to billions of pesos.
He said district engineers can seek funding of up to P100 million while regional directors do not course their requests to the House but to the DPWH secretary.
In turn, the DPWH secretary will forward their requests to the House or Senate. However, the senator said no less than Public Works Secretary Mark Villar admitted during the agency’s budget hearing last 12 November that no consultation or coordination was made prior to the insertions.