24 opposition lawmakers get zero infrastructure funding in 2018 budget

December 19, 2017 - 8:15 PM
HOR plenary hall
The plenary hall of the House of Representatives. PHIL. STAR FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – The era of zero pet project for opposition lawmakers has returned.

Some 24 members of the House of Representatives, the majority of them from the opposition bloc, will not get any infrastructure projects for their districts or beneficiaries in the newly-signed budget for 2018.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the P3.767 trillion budget on Tuesday, December 19 in ceremonies at Malacañang, in the presence of leaders of the Senate and the House.

He also signed into law the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill, which will lower the income tax rates of workers but impose higher excise tax, in turn, on such items as transport fuel, new vehicles, sweetened beverages and tobacco, among others.

At least two news sources confirmed to InterAksyon that the infrastructure projects proposed by the 24 House members were rejected by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and not given budget allocations in the new appropriations.

When the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), otherwise known as pork barrel, was still legal and constitutional, senators could get PhP200 million each, and congressmen P70 million each from the annual appropriation for their pet beneficiaries.

The amounts are supposed to fund projects that are not prioritized by the national government. PDAF may either be “hard” allocations or infrastructure projects, or “soft” earmarks, such as scholarships and medical assistance.

Although the money was not given directly to lawmakers, they were given the discretion to choose their projects. In 2013, the Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional.

During the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from 2001 to 2010, a number of congressmen did not get their share of the PDAF for being critical of the administration.

Starting in 2015, in lieu of the PDAF, senators and congressmen were still allowed to propose projects for their constituents or districts, subject to the approval of the concerned department or agency.

During budget deliberation this year, the sources said the project proposals of the 24 lawmakers appeared to have been approved by the department, but was scrapped during the final scrutiny.

Of the 24 lawmakers, seven belong to the independent bloc called the Magnificent 7, and seven were from the Makabayan bloc of partylist lawmakers, who used to belong with the supermajority at the House but bolted the bloc in September this year due to policy differences with the President.

Five lawmakers who will not get projects were from the Liberal Party, and five others were with the supermajority but known to be critical of the administration or the Speaker, one of the sources said.

However, not all LP members will be getting zero budget. Some LP members allied with the supermajority will continue to enjoy project funding.

The 24 House members who get zero from the 2018 budget are:

From the Magnificent 7:

1. Edcel Lagman (Albay)

2. Edgar Erice (Caloocan)

3. Teddy Baguilat (Ifugao)

4. Raul Daza (Northern Samar)

5. Emmanuel Billones (Capiz)

6. Gary Alejano (Magdalo)

7. Tom Villarin (Akbayan)

From the Makabayan bloc:

8. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna)

9. Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers)

10. France Castro (ACT Teachers)

11. Emmie de Jesus (Gabriela)

12. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela)

13. Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis)

14. Sarah Elago (Kabataan)

From the Liberal Party

15.Bolet Banal (Quezon City)

16.Kit Belmonte (Quezon City)

17.Francis Gerard Abaya (Cavite)

18.Vicente Alcala (Quezon)

19.Kaka Bag-ao (Dinagat Island)

District Representatives

20. Antonio Floirendo (Davao)

21. Imelda Marcos (Ilocos Norte)

22. Aurora Cerilles (Zamboanga del Sur)

23. Valentina Plaza (Agusan del Sur)

24. Milagrosa Tan (Samar)