House wants additional P1.6B budget for extra deputy speakers, vice chairs

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives defended the P1.6-billion increase in its proposed budget for 2020, arguing that the amount accounts for the additional deputy speakers and vice chairpersons who now need to hire extra staff and get new offices. 

House committee on accounts chairperson Abraham Tolentino made the manifestation as the House’s P14-billion proposed budget for its day-to-day operations in 2020 was tackled by the plenary on Friday, September 20.

Tolentino chairs the panel tasked to oversee the lower chamber's internal budget, which is worth P12.74 billion this year.

Tolentino said they want an additional P1.6 billion because the heated speakership race in the 18th Congress eventually led to the election of additional House deputy speakers as well as vice chairpersons of the House committees on appropriations and ways and means.

It was a way for Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to accommodate the requests of the different factions of lawmakers, whom Rappler sources earlier said set aside their personal dislike of him so they could secure the key leadership posts they wanted. 

“We did not expect after the SONA (State of the Nation Address)...that there will be additional deputy speakers. We did not expect that there will be additional vice chairs on appropriations and ways and means. We did not expect either that there will be newly created committees,” said Tolentino.

“We are only asking for additional amount for Congress budget at around P1,598,765,432 only, Mister Speaker – in short, rounding off to P1.6 billion – just to be sure that, for the 2020, all will be given to all employees: the permanents, the contractuals, the consultants, [salary] increases, and other equipment and offices needed by the House,” said Tolentino.

In the 17th Congress, there were only 14 deputy speakers. In the current Congress, there are 22 deputy speakers. (READ: LIST: House committee chairmanships for 18th Congress)

The appropriations committee also has 37 vice chairpersons, while the committee on ways and means has 7 vice chairpersons.  

On Friday, Tolentino said lawmakers should not forget about defending their own institution’s proposed budget.

“'Wag po nating kalimutan, Mister Speaker, Mister Sponsor, na tayo po sa House ang nagde-defend, nag-ii-sponsor, at ipinagtatanggol po natin ang budget ng different departments and agencies ng pamahalaan. 'Wag naman pong kalimutang ipagtanggol din ang budget ng House,” said Tolentino. 

(Let us not forget, Mister Speaker, Mister Sponsor, that we in the House defend and sponsor the budgets of different departments and agencies in government. Let us not forget to defend our own budget here in the House.)

Tolentino’s manifestation on the House’s proposed budget for its daily operations came two days after House committee on appropriations vice chairperson Joey Salceda revealed that every lawmaker will get P100 million under the proposed 2020 budget to allot for their pet projects next year. 

Of the P100 million, P70 million will go to infrastructure projects and the remaining P30 million will be allotted for “soft” projects, like medical and education assistance. 

Salceda, however, insisted this is not a form of the now-unconstitutional pork barrel, as each allocation will be itemized in the 2020 budget. – 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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