ZIP it or the beans will be spilled.
This was the message of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to allies of his rival, Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco, after one of them accused an ally of the Speaker of cornering billions worth of projects in this year’s P4.1-trillion national budget.
Cayetano, who is accusing Velasco of plotting a coup to unseat him, said the congressional allocation of Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador Leachon was increased by at least P1 billion under the 2020 General Appropriations Act.
“Nadagdagan din siya ng P1 billion. So, kung magtutuloy-tuloy silang maninira, we will respond ((His district allocation was increased by P1 billion. So if they continue with their smear campaign, we will respond),” Cayetano told a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Leachon earlier accused deputy speaker for finance Luis Raymund Villafuerte, a confidante and party mate of the Speaker in the Nacionalista Party (NP), of making insertions in the 2020 national budget after it has undergone deliberations at the bicameral level.
Leachon was removed last Monday as a member of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) amid the alleged coup plot.
Cayetano has repeatedly said he would give way to Velasco once the President tells him to relinquish the post by November, the end of his 15-month stint as leader of the House, under a term-sharing scheme with Velasco.
Leachon earlier accused Villafuerte of making P6 billion worth of “pork insertions,” which he said includes the construction of phase one of the Camarines Sur Iconic Capitol Building and the Capitol Complex Sports and Convention Center in Pili town.
The Speaker said even the allocation for the district of Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, who was removed as chair of the appropriations committee, was also increased significantly.
“If you look at the district of Sid Ungab, and of Doy Leachon, bilyon din ang nadagdag (billions were added). If you look at some who are very close to me, nabawasan (their allocations were decreased),” Cayetano said.
He said it is unfair to make it appear that the Speaker’s allies like Villafuerte were given preferential treatment.
Ungab – who is close to presidential daughter Mayor Sara Duterte who was against Cayetano’s assumption of the speaker’s post in July last year – was kicked out as chair of the powerful appropriations panel after the Speaker announced last week that Velasco’s camp was behind the moves to “sabotage” this year’s national budget, the source of all the districts’ congressional allocations.
Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro last week said a “lost soul” was trying to block the release of district allocations for congressmen under this year’s budget, depriving congressional districts of much-needed funds for projects in the countryside.
Castro’s privilege speech was delivered almost a week after Sen. Panfilo Lacson announced that Malacañang withheld the release of some P80 billion in infrastructure funds that some House members have allegedly tried to realign from the government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure programs this year to their pet projects.
The Speaker said the DBM, in withholding the funds, “is simply saying we need documentation.”
“Anything we change in the (budget of the) government, we clear with the departments, so there shouldn’t be a problem. Ngayon, kung may projects diyan na mali (Now, if there are projects that are wrong) or inherently corrupt, kasama kami sa magko-condemn niyan (we’ll be among those who’ll condemn it),” Cayetano said.
“Call a spade a spade. Don’t get me wrong. Kung may nakalagay diyan na pork, call it pork but the mere fact na may amendments sa budget, hindi pork ‘yun (Call a spade a spade.
Don’t get me wrong. If there’s pork there, call it pork but the mere fact that there are amendments in the budget, it doesn’t make it pork),” he added.
Ungab, in a text message to reporters, confirmed that “there were insertions that did not pass through the process of the committee on appropriations.”
He said the congressional insertions were “projects inserted during the hearing of the bicameral conference committee.”
Ungab would not confirm or deny rumors that he was the one who informed the President that there were insertions in the budget.
“The fact that the President issued an affirmation message and DBM’s Budget Circular 578, plus the expertise of the DBM personnel in the budget process, I believe in the wisdom of these conditions for implementation in order to safeguard public funds and to ensure accountability of the project implementors,” he said.