Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday flagged “noticeable” increases in the proposed appropriations for the districts of congressmen who are allied with House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and decreases in the funds of those allied with ex-Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
“Evidently — ito, noticeable ito — ‘yong mga malalapit sa bagong Speaker, mayroong naka-register na mga increases at ‘yong malalapit sa dating speaker, ‘yon ang nakaexperience naman ng reduction (Evidently — now this was noticeable — those who were close to the new Speaker registered increases while those close to the former speaker experienced reductions),” Lacson said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, November 25.
“So what else can you conclude?” he asked.
Before this, Lacson recalled the lump sum appropriations in the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which the agency later itemized in an addendum. From about P396 billion, the allocations being questioned increased to P474 billion, he said.
Citing “information” coming from the House of Representatives, Lacson said “some congressmen poked their fingers into the distribution or itemization of the P396 [billion] or P474 billion, which of course, they are denying.”
“There’s no way for us to know that if no information would come to our office. So we developed the information that some congressmen actually interfered in the apportionment of the lump sum appropriations under the DPWH budget.”
Lacson said that no matter how House members deny, the appropriations in their approved General Appropriations Bill were influenced by the change in their leadership.
Among others, Lacson said the proposed appropriation for the district of Cayetano-allied Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymun Villafuerte was “definitely” reduced, while shares of Albay and Benguet provinces increased.
Benguet’s caretaker is ACT-CIS Partylist Rep. Eric Yap, who chairs the House appropriation committee, he noted.
On the other hand, there were no changes in Taguig City’s allocation “probably out of respect or deference” to Cayetano.
Lacson said there was a “great” disparity in the allocation for districts, ranging to as high as P15.315 billion to as low as P620 million.
“At the very least it’s improper,” he said when asked if such practice was anomalous, reiterating the some lawmakers have found a way to “circumvent” the Supreme Court ruling on “pork barrel” funds.
In October, Velasco and Cayetano fought over their term-sharing agreement on the leadership of the Lower Chamber, briefly affecting discussions on the proposed 2021 national budget and its transmittal to the Senate.
After President Duterte’s intervention, Cayetano tendered his resignation while House members elected Velasco as their new Speaker.
The Senate, meanwhile, is set to approve its version of the General Appropriations Bill on third and final reading Thursday, November 26.