MANILA, Philippines - Last year, it was Zambales Rep Milagros "Mitos" Magsaysay versus Communications Secretary Ramon "Ricky" Carandang. This year, it's Magsaysay versus Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad.
It was bound to happen. Magsaysay has been publicly attacking Abad for withholding her district's P70-M Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
The two came face to face on Wednesday, August 1, when Abad went to the House of Representatives for the first day of budget deliberations.
There are "political realities," Abad explained to Magsaysay. The lawmaker, an ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been critical of President Benigno Aquino III and his administration. She is also a presumptive senatorial candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) led by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Abad told reporters last week that while several lawmakers are not getting their pork barrel, their districts would not be deprived of direct allocations from the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Magsaysay also asked Abad if the order to withhold her pork came from President Aquino himself. Abad answered: "The buck stops with me."
Magsaysay turned emotional. She told Abad how her constituents were "suffering" since she didn't have her pork barrel.
Magsaysay said she plans to file a case against Abad for allegedly violating the General Appropritions Act. She said she will use as evidence the video of her exchange with Abad during the budget hearing.
"He cannot cite to me any legal basis for withholding the PDAF of my district. It is very clear that the PDAF of Zambales and Olongapo is in the GAA. If the GAA is ratified, then our district is entitled to the P70 million that we aproved and ratified into law under the GAA. Definitely he is violating the law," Magsaysay later explained to reporters.
Sought for comment, Abad told Rappler in a text message: "We are politicians. We should know the possible consequences of our actions. That's the political reality we face."
Aside from Magsaysay, at least 3 other lawmakers have not received their pork barrel: Camarines Sur Rep Diosdado Macapagal Arroyo, Iloilo Rep Augusto Syjuco Jr, and Ang Galing Pinoy Juan Miguel Arroyo. The Arroyos are the sons of the former president who is now Pampanga representative.
Last year, Magsaysay called Carandang a "spoiled brat, arrogant, and immature," also during a budget hearing.
Magsaysay then did not like how Carandang answered her questions regarding his supposedly questionable purchase of laptop computers for the Palace's communications office. - Rappler.com