By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Appropriations will not in any way implement a gag rule on the Lower Chamber’s discussions on the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the panel, made the assurance after Construction Workers Solidarity partylist Rep. Romeo Momo admitted that he made a mistake when he publicly disclosed that one congressional district got P5 billion in projects in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in next year’s national budget.
“Well, it’s normal to have mistakes, as long as it is corrected immediately, I see no problem. I do not want to put a gag on our colleagues as I believe in transparency as the best way to proceed with legislation most especially in matters related to spending the taxpayer’s money,” he told the Manila Bulletin.
While implementing a gag rule is not an option, he asked his colleagues to be cautious about providing data concerning the spending measure.
“I agree with you that exercising caution by ensuring correct data are relayed to media is the route to take,” Ungab said.
He said Momo’s act is laudable, describing it as “a mark of being a responsible and accountable public officer.”
“I appreciate the act of Cong Momo, admitting his mistake and retracting his word also through public media,” he said.
Momo, who previously served as DPWH undersecretary, earlier said congressional districts will receive as much as P5 billion to as low as P800 million worth of infrastructure projects under the proposed 2020 national appropriations.
Momo, vice chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations, clarified his previous statement, saying that there was a misunderstanding.
He explained that the projects are “funded under Foreign Loans and Multi-Year Obligations and are in the Programs, Activity, Projects (PAP) of the DPWH.” He denied there was a P5 billion infrastructure allocation for one congressional district.
Ungab said the DPWH can best validate the amount of funding allocations of projects that it will implement in congressional districts next year.
“Frankly, It’s hard to get a summary of projects per district, maybe DPWH can extrapolate based on the figures. It’s normal for the amounts to differ because the size per district is not the same and the length of the road networks is not the same too,” he said, when asked to confirm whether or not congressional districts will get as much as P5 billion to as low as P800 million worth of infrastructure projects under next year’s national appropriations.
“What is important is no district gets a zero allocation anymore. Should there be a district with bigger allocation, it may be because a big ticket project is constructed in that particular district under the Build, Build, Build program of the government. The figure can be best validated by the DPWH,” Ungab pointed out.