Incoming House Speaker Alvarez: No pork on my watch

MANILA, Philippines – The pork barrel will not be making a comeback in the 17th Congress, the presumptive House Speaker, Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez said on Tuesday, July 12, dismissing a newspaper report that quoted an anonymous source.

“I never said that members of the House of Representatives ‘will be entitled to their usual district allocations.’ The Supreme Court has already ruled against such lump sum allocations,” Alvarez said in a statement.

“What I said was that congressmen will be allowed to propose projects needed in their districts so they can be included in the line budgeting of the General Appropriations Act (GAA),” he said.

In 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously voted against the Priority Development Assisance Fund after it was revealed that billions of pesos under it were going to bogus non-governmental organizations that lawmakers had endorsed in exchange for commissions. (READ: Pork Tales: A Story of Corruption

Alvarez released the statement on Tuesday to allay fears that the PDAF may be coming back after the cap on the proposed annual budget for each legislative district increased from P70 million under the 16th Congress to P80 million in the 17th Congress. 

Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco told dzBB that P50 million has indeed been allocated for “hard” projects or infrastructure and P30 million for “soft” projects like scholarships and livelihood assistance. 

But Tiangco said the P10 million increase in the budget does not mean pork is back at the Lower House. 

The fact na pinapag-submit ka [ng proposed projects] bago aprubahan ang budget, ‘yan ang nagpapatunay na hindi ho pork barrel ‘yan. Ibig sabihin ho nyan, line item budgeting ‘yan at binibigyan lang ng pagkakataon ang mga kongresista na sabihin kung ano ang proyekto na gusto nilang dalhin doon sa distrito nila,” said Tiangco. 

(The fact that they’re asking you to submit your proposed budget before the budget will be approved means it is not pork barrel. That’s line item budgeting, and the congressmen are only being given a chance to say which projects they want to bring to their districts.)

According to Alvarez, this function is “inherent” for members of the House of Representatives because “the people go directly to us to tell us what projects are badly needed by their communities.”

“The Duterte administration has a strong anti-corruption program. Woe to the lawmaker who will propose a project with the end-in-view of making money out of it in the manner it was done in the past through under-the-table commissions from implementors,” said Alvarez.

The Department of Budget and Management is still reviewing the P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017 before it submits it to Congress for approval. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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