By Ralph Villanueva/Manila Times
Malacanang has said Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should explain the P2.4bn budget given to her district under the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act.
The P2.4bn last-minute realignments in Arroyo’s allocation was raised by Senator Panfilo Lacson during a Senate hearing on next year’s budget, tagging it as pork barrel.
While he did not name the lawmaker, Lacson’s presentation bared the names of the towns under Arroyo’s Pampanga’s Second District.
In a news briefing, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the former president should explain the realignments.
“I think so, given the amount involved, given the reaction of people like you. The citizens would like an explanation,” Panelo added.
He, however, said Malacanang will not ask Arroyo for explanation anymore because the furore it caused is enough already.
“The fact that some quarters are reacting, it behoves those who are involved in the realignments to respond to the practice of some elements of society,” Panelo added.
Arroyo, according to the Palace official, should explain why the allocation is that large, compared to that for other provinces.
If the amount of the realignments was justified and the money is spent where it should be spent, Panelo said there would be no issue.
“What is important to me is whether the allocation is geared for the benefit of the constituents where they are assigned,” he added.
“For as long as the money is spent where they should be spent, but if the money is going to be spent outside of the real purpose, then it’s corruption and we will not allow that,” Panelo said.
He added that President Rodrigo Duterte may exercise his veto power if he deemed that the allocation is questionable.
“He will do so with regard to everything that is in violation of the Constitution,” he added. Aside from Arroyo’s district, Lacson said a lawmaker from Camarines Sur would also be getting P1.9bn worth of projects next year.
Last week, Camarines Sur representative Rolando Andaya Jr, also the House majority leader, admitted that congressmen and senators were allotted millions of pesos for their projects under the proposed P3.7tn national budget for 2019.
He said this amount was part of the P51.792bn that was previously tagged as “lump sums with no details,” and had caused a series of delays in deliberations on the proposed 2019 budget.
Pork barrel, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund, was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court a few years ago.
Arroyo, who took over the speakership earlier this year, has had trouble with corruption in the past.
She was detained in a hospital for almost four years for plunder over her alleged misuse of P366mn in funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
In 2016, the Supreme Court acquitted Arroyo and former PCSO board member Benjamin Aguas.
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