P1.6-B hike in House budget to also benefit Batasan workers, facilities

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano clarified that the P1.6-billion increase in the House of Representatives' proposed internal budget for 2020 would also fund the salary increases of congressional workers and the planned improvement of facilities.  

Speaking before members of the Congressional Spouses Foundation Incorporated, Cayetano slammed the "fake news" of a certain blogger who allegedly said the proposed P1.6 billion was only meant for the 22 House deputy speakers in the 18th Congress.

"For the past two days, may mga nangungulit about, actually fake news 'yung nasa isang blogger na sinabi niyang we added P1.6 billion for the 22 deputy speakers. We used to have 14 deputy speakers, we now have 22. If we're going to add P1.6 billion for additional 8 deputy speakers, that's P200 million for every deputy speaker," said Cayetano in his speech on Monday, September 23. 

(For the past two days, people have been asking about the fake news of one blogger who said we added P1.6 billion for the 22 deputy speakers. We used to have 14 deputy speakers, we now have 22. If we're going to add P1.6 billion for additional 8 deputy speakers, that's P200 million for every deputy speaker.)

"Ang problema sa blogger na 'to – aside from [having an] axe to grind sa akin – hindi man lang tiningnan 'yung actual records ng Congress or 'yung news (The problem with this blogger – aside from having an axe to grind against me – is that he or she did not look at the actual records of Congress or the news)," the Speaker added. 

Cayetano, however, did not name the blogger.

The Speaker's speech came 3 days after House committee on accounts chairperson Abraham Tolentino said the lower chamber is proposing a P1.6-billion budget increase for its daily operations next year for the additional deputy speakers and vice chairpersons who now need to hire extra staff and get new offices.

In a separate interview with reporters, Cayetano said the additional funds would also be used to enhance the Congressional Budget and Planning Office, improve the Batasang Pambansa's facilities, and fund operations of newly formed House committees. 

The Taguig-Pateros congressman also said that should the 5th tranche of the Salary Standardization Law push through, the House would need more funds so it could properly give congressional workers the salary increase that they should be receiving. 

"'Pag pinasa natin 'yung bagong Salary Standardization Law, siyempre may mga empleyado rin tayo dito, mga career officials. It's also to add committees, dahil may mga committees tayo katulad ng oversight committee on the flagship programs and projects, special committee on persons with disabilities," said Cayetano.

(We need the funds for when the new Salary Standardization Law is passed, because of course there are employees here, career officials. It's also to add committees, because we have new committees like the oversight committee on the flagship programs and projects, special committee on persons with disabilities.)

"So it's also to enhance the facilities ng Kongreso para 'pag nagfi-field trip 'yung mga bata, 'yung sense of pride ng kanilang region, 'di ba, we want bawat sulok ng Kongreso ay magre-reflect ng ating history, culture, art," added the Speaker. 

(So it's also to enhance the facilities of Congress so that whenever children go on a field trip here, they would have a sense of pride for the region because every corner of Congress would reflect our history, culture, and art.)

Not accommodating House factions?

Cayetano, however, denied the increase in the number of House leaders in the 18th Congress was caused by him having to accommodate various factions of lawmakers that emerged from the heated speakership race. (READ: Lawmakers set aside dislike of Cayetano for Speaker to secure House posts)

In defending the P1.6-billion increase for the House budget, Tolentino said it was because they did not anticipate there would be more deputy speakers and vice chairpersons following the speakership elections. 

"Actually baliktad. Kung iisipin ko lang sarili kong pulitika, then we'll have less. Tapos ang tradition kasi, alagaan mo 'yung nang-loyal sa'yo.... But we want to make congressmen much more inclusive," said Cayetano. 

(I think it's the opposite. If I had just considered my own politics, we'll have less. The tradition used to be you'd take care of those who were loyal to you. But we want to make congressmen much more inclusive.) 

In the last stretch of the battle for the highest post in the House, 3 names were leading the pack: Cayetano, Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez, and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco. 

The 3-way fight initially divided the House. But when President Rodrigo Duterte backed a term-sharing agreement between Cayetano and Velasco, legislators followed the President's wishes and elected Cayetano as Speaker.

Romualdez became House majority leader under the same term-sharing deal. – 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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