By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Lawmakers rallied behind and justified Monday the House resolution seeking to grant them additional operational budget to immediately address the social and medical needs of their constituents.
Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, and Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza expressed full support to the Committee Resolution No. 137, filed by Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino, that seeks up to P500,000 additional district operational budget for House members to swiftly attend to the concerns of their constituents.
“Although the main role of the Members of Congress is to create laws that would benefit the people, it is also our duty to address the needs and concerns of our constituents. As their representatives, it is inevitable for our people to come to us seeking for help and assistance,” Abu said in an interview.
“The additional P500,000 operational budget will allow us to provide an immediate response for help. The use of the budget should be for the benefit of the representatives’ constituents and shall be subject to government auditing and accounting rules and procedures,” he said.
Committee Resolution No. 137, which got the nod of the House leadership, provides “that the total district operational budget for each House member starting Calendar Year 2019 is granted subject to the following schedule: For Luzon/Partylist Representatives, P468, 670; For other Luzon Representatives, P480,920; For Visayas Representatives, P480,688; and for Mindanao Representatives, P500,000.”
For his part, Leachon, a former mayor, said their current district allocation is “too small” to address the concerns of their respective districts compared to that of city mayors.
“I’ll be [a] hypocrite to say no. I’ll support it (Committee Resolution No. 137). It may be personal on us, but our present allocation is too small to address our district concerns. I for one have been augmenting P200,000 monthly out of my personal funds for the last six years to make both ends meet,” he said in a separate interview.
“Unlike when I was city mayor, local chief executives have budget allocations for gasoline, salaries, travel allowances, etc. Here it’s a lumpsum allocation but short of the district essential needs,” he added.
He explained that there is nothing illegal with the proposed additional operational budget.
“No. Not at all. So as long as all will be accounted for,” Leachon pointed out.
“Kase pangangailangan eh. Di luho. Just [as] I mentioned, Mayors have bigger operational [budget] than us? Isa lang city nya. Ako one city and seven towns ang jurisdiction,” he said.
Daza agreed with his colleagues and stood behind Tolentino’s proposal.
“House members are approached by constituents for social, medical and other assistance.. In my case, we get more requests for assistance than LGU officials,” he said.
Under Committee Resolution No. 137, Tolentino said the grant of additional district operational budget House members “is necessary and indispensable to address the concerns of their constituents.”
He explained that the district operational budget covers a wide latitude of expense items that include, but it is not limited to transportation, supplies, utilities, courier services, subscription, communication and internet, repairs and maintenance, representation, district staff, and public affairs expenditure.
The resolution got the approval of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez; Davao City Rep. Isidro. Ungab, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations; and Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr.
“The total District Operational Budget shall be supported by Certification of monthly operational expenses that include, but not limited to, local travel, all communication expenditures, representation and all public affairs expenditures, based on the above schedule,” read the Committee Resolution No. 137.
The resolution provides that a copy of resolution shall be given to the Commission on Audit (COA) “for their consideration and adoption.”
Committee Resolution No. 137 was referred to the House Committee on Appropriations on August 6.