By Ben Rosario
The leadership of the House of Representatives Saturday accused Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte of being a peddler of fake news for claiming that P92.3 billion in 2019 national budget allocation has been distributed to favored members of the chamber.
Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said Villafuerte’s complaint in the media was a glaring act of sourgraping as the Bicolano lawmaker was among the “select” members of the ousted House leadership whose congressional districts gained billions of pesos in infrastructure funds during their two year reign in the Lower House.
“I can say with authority that Rep. Villafuerte is peddling fake news,” Castro said.
“Based on our records, Rep. Villafuerte was allocated P2.7 billion by the previous House leadership. Of this amount, P1.2 billion was included in the P75-billion insertion by the former DBM boss, which congressmen questioned and opposed during the budget deliberation,” he explained.
The billions of pesos Villafuerte’s congressional district stood to gain from the original National Expenditure Program whittled down to an amount that nearly all 290 House members received for their congressional districts.
“He is one of the former House leaders who stand to gain billions in projects had we not corrected the inequities in the National Expenditure Program,” disclosed Castro.
In a press statement, Villafuerte accused the current House leadership of taking away from at least 62 House members some P92.3 billion in congressional allocation for their respective districts. He said the amount was later redistributed to select lawmakers who are close to the leadership.
Castro said Villafuerte had the situation reversed, saying that right after the discovery last year of some P55 billion in anomalously hidden pork barrel funds, Villafuerte’s name surfaced as among the recipients.
It turned out that the amount of so-called “pork barrel” reached P75 billion, with Villafuerte and ousted leaders of the chamber getting huge allocations ranging from P3 billion to P8 billion per district, said Castro.
“Aside from Rep. Villafuerte, more than two dozens of select congressmen were also allocated huge allocation ranging from P3 billion to P8 billion per district by the previous House leaders.” Castro disclosed.
Among them were former Speaker and Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, P8 billion; former Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, P3.59 billion and Reps. Emmanuel Madrona (PDP-Laban, Romblon),P6.7 billion; Lawrence Lemuel Fortun, (NP, Agusan del Norte); P5.9 billion; Joey Salceda (PDP-Laban, Albay), P5.6 billion and Josephine Sato (LP, Mindoro Occidental), P3.3 billion).
According to Castro the current House leadership considers the wide discrepancy in the distribution of programs and projects as unconscionable.
“We can no longer allow the old practice of the previous House leadership, which dispenses programs and projects based on loyalties and votes on legislative measures,” he said.
Castro added: “That was the reason why there were zero allocation for several congressional districts before.”
The senior administration lawmaker said that based on the current guidelines, we made sure allocations were equitably distributed.
“If we have not resorted to this, the mind-boggling allocations for previous House leaders and their pet districts, plus DBM insertions the DPWH were clueless about, would have remained intact,” he pointed out.