Calls to declare all seats vacant in the House of Representatives grew louder over the weekend as its leadership scrambled to douse a fire sparked by the uneven distribution of project funds.
This sent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s office in a frenetic race to call the lawmakers so that he could regroup his forces as his post has suddenly become untenable.
He is also reportedly meeting with Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte’s son, tomorrow for an assurance that he stays as the top House leader.
While staying silent on the issue that presently conflagrates the House, the young Duterte is seen as one having a strong voice in the Chamber.
House sources are in unison in claiming that Cayetano is reneging on his promise to vacate his seat at the end of October as part of his term-sharing deal with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
He even asked President Duterte’s blessing so that he could stay put middle of this week. He got a vague answer.
But Cayetano’s hold on the speakership is still being shaken by a growing number of congressmen who found his and his wife Lani’s separate districts in Taguig City as recipients of big funds for infrastructure projects courtesy of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Several congressmen are now saying the Cayetanos’ Taguig City is getting P12 billion in DPWH projects.
Cayetano’s close ally, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte, meanwhile, is said to be a recipient of P11.8-billion infrastructure funds.
Daily Tribune was able to obtain a list of some of the Cayetanos’ infrastructure projects in Taguig City.
These are just 21 of their projects worth P3,179,680,000 which have been listed in the 2021 National Expenditure Program of the government.
Set for construction are: Multi-purpose building and site development at Lakeshore in Lower Bicutan (P195,500,000); multi-purpose building at Western Bicutan (P153,000,000); site development of multi-purpose baseball stadium at Barangay Ususan (P255,000,000); Cayetano Sports Complex at Bagumbayan (P212,500,000); multi-purpose building at Barangay Sta. Ana (P59,500,000);
Multi-purpose building and facilities at Calzada Tipaz (127,500,000); multi-purpose building and integrated parking terminal with park facility at Central Bicutan (P297,500,000); multi-purpose building and site development (SPED center) at Calzada Tipaz (P51,000,000); multi-purpose building at Camp Bagong Diwa, Central Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose building at TCU Compound, Central Bicutan (P204,000,000);
Multi-purpose building and site development at TCU Compound, Central Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose building and site development at Bambang (P51,000,000); multi-purpose building at Bagong Tanyag (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Central Signal (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Pinagsama (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Upper Bicutan (P59,500,000);
Multi-purpose government center at Lower Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose and site development (P212,500,000); multi-purpose sports stadium (P204,680,000), and Taguig City Parola at Napindan (P272,000,000).
These projects are under DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, son of Nacionalista Party (NP) power couple Manny (a former senator) and incumbent Sen. Cynthia Villar.
Cayetano and Villafuerte are both leading members of the NP.
These figures have sent the other congressmen seething as majority of them were allocated only P2 billion each in projects or less.
Total allocation for the Visayas bloc, meanwhile, is only eight percent of the 2021 budget.
Cayetano, however, was said to have tried making amends with several congressmen on Friday and Saturday, assuring them of equitable shares from the still unused 2020 budget.
“He’s in a panic and was trying to appease the congressmen,” a Tribune source said. “Many are up in arms because only a few of them are getting billions of pesos in allocations while the rest have not been released.”
Some of these funds were supposedly from the budgets turned over by the different agencies to the Executive Department which were earlier repurposed for the COVID-19 battle.
The money which could not be released this year were supposedly put in the 2021 budget.
“Now, they’re trying to release the funds for the projects intended for 2020,” the source said. “These are funds branded as FLR or For Late Release.”
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, meanwhile, branded the FLR as “unconstitutional and pure nonsense”
“There were no FLR when I was in Congress from 2007 to 2016. When I returned in 2019, I came to know of these FLR,” he stated.
“The Constitution provides for line item budgeting. The items aproved in the GAA (General Appropriations Act) should all be released. These FLR become the discretionary funds of the DPWH as to which district it will release to,” he added.
“If the line items are approved by the GAA in Congress, they should all be released. No ifs, no buts. This FLR scheme should be stopped, discontinued and set aside,” Rodriguez emphasized.
Another congressman, however, was more curt when he said: “Cayetano should enjoy his days as House Speaker. They may end very soon.”