HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday said the budgets slashed from several opposition lawmakers and some members of the majority coalition had been reallocated to fund government priorities, such as education and the welfare of cops and soldiers.
In a statement, Alvarez said the removed funding will be reallocated to free college education in state universities and colleges and to augment the salaries and benefits of the military and police, “who are in the frontlines of the government’s war against terrorism and criminality.”
“I mean what I say and I am not in the habit of saying one thing and doing another. If there’s money, then I’ll see to it that it would be properly allocated. As much as possible, once funding for a project has been approved, then it is good to go,” Alvarez said.
“But in extraordinary cases, we have to re-allocate funds for other priorities, such as education and the welfare of policemen and soldiers. This is what happened in the 2018 budget,” he added.
On Wednesday, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Wednesday claimed that opposition lawmakers and other targeted legislators in the House of Representatives have “zero allocations” under the 2018 General Appropriations Act. He said a total of 24 solons suffered from budget cuts.
“Steadfast critical dissent and perceived “waywardness” have left the respective constituencies of two-dozen solons destitute of infrastructure projects under the 2018 General Appropriations Act,” Lagman said.
Lagman belongs to the opposition bloc called Magnificent 7. Other members include Representatives Tom Villarin, Gary Alejano, Edgar Erice, Teddy Baguilat, Raul Daza, and Emmanuel Billones.
Alvarez questioned the PHP3.8-billion budget allocated for projects in Lagman’s district.
“We would be very happy to hear from him where this huge funding has gone,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez also said the Makabayan bloc, composed of seven party-list lawmakers identified with the “mainstream Left”, has not accessed funds from Congress at all.
Alvarez accused the Makabayan bloc of possibly sourcing their funds from “revolutionary taxation” by the communist rebels.
“According to the military, in southern Mindanao alone, the NPA (New People’s Army) collects close to PHP500 million yearly in revolutionary taxes. This is plain and simple extortion,” Alvarez said.
“We have not heard from the Makabayan bloc a clear and unequivocal condemnation of revolutionary taxation, leading us to suspect that they either directly or indirectly benefit from it,” he added.
Members of the Makabayan bloc include ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Gabriela Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao and Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago. (RONDA Balita Online News)