JANUARY 7, 2010 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla - President Arroyo spent a whopping P459 million in pork barrel allocations for infrastructure projects in the second district of Pampanga in 2009, more than six times the P70-million annual pork barrel allocation per congressman, a militant lawmaker said yesterday.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros, a Liberal Party senatorial candidate, said according to the records of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Region III, the President undertook a huge number of infrastructure projects in the congressional district where she is running for congresswoman.

Pampanga’s second district has six towns: Sta. Rita, Guagua, Sasmuan, Porac, Floridablanca and Lubao, the President’s hometown where most of the projects were built.

DPWH Region III records showed that the President spent P3 million for a slope protection project in Lubao, P5 million to build a drainage canal in the Angeles-Porac-Dinalupihan Road, P17 million to build the Basa Airbase access road, P100 million to build the Basa Airbase access road interchange, P3 million to desilt and declog the river in Bancal Pudad, Lubao, and P3.5 million to riprap feeder roads in Lubao.

The President also spent P4.2 million to construct a drainage canal in Lubao, P700,000 to desilt and declog the river in Sta. Catalina, Lubao, P3 million to desilt and declog the Rio Grande de la Pampanga in Lubao, P3 million to desilt and declog Gumi River in Lubao, P3 million to desilt and declog Sapang Wanan in Lubao, and P9.1 million to build concrete roads in Lubao.

Also spent were P20 million to repair the San Fernando-Lubao Road passing through Sta. Monica, P20 million to repair the San Fernando-Lubao Road passing through San Antonio, P10.5 million to build a multipurpose building in Lubao, P5 million to rehabilitate the Calantas FMR in Floridablanca, P5 million for a slope protection project in Porac, Carmen, Floridablanca, P700,000 to riprap a creek in San Agustin, Sta. Rita.

Mrs. Arroyo also spent P3 million to construct a line canal in San Nicolas, Floridablanca, P1.3 million to construct and repair canals in Sta. Rita, P5 million for a slope protection project in Porac, Valdez, Floridablanca, P12 million for a slope protection project in Porac, Pulungmasle, Guagua, P5 million to improve the municipal building of Sasmuan, P5 million to upgrade the feeder road in Sto. Cristo, Guagua.

Likewise spent were P1.4 million to repair roads in Sta. Rita, P5 million to build a drainage canal in San Antonio,

Floridablanca, P30 million to rehabilitate Babsukan Road, P4.2 million to construct a multipurpose building in Sasmuan, P1.4 million to construct a multipurpose building in Sta Rita, P150 million to construct the Lubao bypass road of the San Fernando-Olongapo Road.

And finally, P20 million was spent to dredge the mouth of the Third River near Pampanga Bay.

Hontiveros said even if the spending is not illegal, it was “improper” and “shameless.”

“She went through a building frenzy, as if creating her own road to Congress, and perhaps, to the prime minister position that she obviously covets,” she said.

A source told The STAR that the President intends to be House speaker once she secures a seat in Congress and, eventually, prime minister if the constitutional convention pushes through.

In early December, Hontiveros sought the disqualification of Mrs. Arroyo from the congressional race, arguing in her petition filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that any president is not eligible for reelection, even for a lower post.

The Comelec is hearing Hontiveros’ complaint today.

“That’s the most compelling reason why she should be disqualified. As the highest official of the land, virtually no one, not a sitting legislator and especially not an ordinary civilian like Mr. Adonis Simpao, can compete with the resources that she has at her disposal,” Hontiveros said.

“GMA’s participation in the race makes the fight uneven. It is not even a question of the resources that she can mobilize to give herself undue advantage, but her capacity to deploy those resources for partisan purposes,” she added.

Hontiveros maintains that the ban against the re-election of an incumbent president extends to candidacy for lower positions.

“The intention of the ban is to protect the election for the highest position from the undue influence that a sitting president could exercise. We believe that the same principle applies for local positions,” she said.

“The same compelling reasons that rationalize the ban exist in the case of a sitting president running for a local position. Otherwise, it would be absurd,” she added.


(STAR) By Jess Diaz - President Arroyo, as a representative of Pampanga’s second district in the next Congress, may benefit from the “pork” impoundment ban her allies have written in the 2010 budget, an opposition congressman said yesterday.

Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III said if Mrs. Arroyo does not veto the special provision containing the ban, her successor would be forced to release pork barrel allocations, including those for her district, which her allies have hidden all over the budget.

“Limiting the President’s power to impound funds is a welcome development. But the timing is suspect,” Guingona said.

“The provision was included after a huge increase in pork allocations, including the diversion of P65 billion in debt payments for this year to the congressional pork barrel,” he said.

“It’s almost as if GMA’s allies in Congress rewarded themselves with campaign funds after so many years of allowing her to have her way with the budget,” he said.

“I do not think that GMA will object. After all, these are her allies and she herself may be a beneficiary if she wins as representative of Pampanga,” he said.

Guingona, a Liberal Party (LP) senatorial candidate, added that the fund impoundment ban is actually directed against Mrs. Arroyo’s successor, who could be LP standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III.

In its report on the final version of the proposed P1.541-trillion national budget, the Senate-House conference committee included a special provision entitled, “Prohibition against impoundment of appropriations.”

Senate finance committee chairman Edgardo Angara and House counterpart Quirino Rep. Junie Cua, both staunch allies of Mrs. Arroyo, jointly chaired the conference panel.

The special provision provides that “the President shall release all budgetary allocations provided for in the GAA (General Appropriations Act)” except in two instances.

The first is, “when the President submits a proposal to Congress to impound or permanently withhold the release of a particular appropriation item and Congress does not act on the proposal within 45 calendar days from its submission to the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, unless during the said period, the Congress denies or rejects the proposal by a vote of a simple majority of the quorum.”

The 45-day period does not include periodic vacations of lawmakers.

The second instance is, “when the President temporarily defers the release of a particular appropriations item upon prior written notice to Congress, through the Senate president and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, which deferment shall subsist unless Congress stops or rejects the deferment in a concurrent resolution adopted by a simple majority of the quorum.”

If the President does not veto or reject the prohibition, she will be covered by it since she will use the 2010 budget until the end of her term on June 30.

It will also apply to whoever succeeds her.

A member of the Angara-Cua conference committee told The STAR that Mrs. Arroyo should feel slighted by the decision of her allies to prohibit her from hijacking funds now that she is leaving office in less than six months.

“Are they conveying the message that she has been impounding funds for her political and personal purposes?” the lawmaker, who did not want to be named, asked.

“Angara, Cua and members of their panel, together with a majority of senators and congressmen, have no quarrel with the President. She has been releasing their pork barrel funds. There is no reason for them to prohibit her from impounding appropriations. It is the diehard members of the opposition who have reason to do that,” a congressman supporter of Senator Aquino said.

“If Noynoy wins on May 10, and most likely he will based on surveys, Mrs. Arroyo’s allies will be in the opposition. President Noynoy will think twice before releasing all those billions in additional pork barrel funds they have hidden all over the budget. They now want to handcuff him from impounding those funds,” the congressman said.

Opposition Sen. Francis Escudero again criticized Mrs. Arroyo for exercising her power to impound pork barrel as a political tool for the past five years.

“She has been exercising her power to impound pork not because of any lofty purpose but to give out or withhold political favor to help her allies and to strangle her political opponents,” Escudero said in a statement.

“She will continue to do so, and with more reason in 2010, for the result of the coming elections could shape her political future,” Escudero, chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of laws, said.

Meanwhile, Liberal Party vice presidential bet Sen. Manuel Roxas II alleged that the Arroyo administration had intentionally overspent so that its successor would end up with a bankrupt treasury.

“This is proof that President Arroyo and her henchmen are robbing the government bankrupt to force the next administration to resort to drastic revenue-generating measures to keep the economy afloat,” Roxas said.

“Our situation now is that our debt is increasing, the government is in a spending spree, but those who benefit only are the politicians sitting in Malacañang,” he said.

Work to do

The House of Representatives will devote its brief pre-election campaign session to passing human resource development measures and environment protection and management programs

“Time may not be on our side, but we will do it. All the standing and special committees, led by the committee on rules, are up to their respective mandates,” Speaker Prospero Nograles said. “We have work to do.”

The House leader said he is confident the remaining session starting Jan. 18 - or almost three weeks - should be fruitful. The House adjourns again on Feb. 5 to give way to the election campaign season.

Session - including canvassing of votes for president - will again resume on May 31 until the sine die adjournment on June 4.

There are 16 priority measures in the chamber’s calendar of business.

“We have more in the legislative pipeline, but we have to trim the list to be practical because of time constraints,” Nograles said.

Beating a self-imposed deadline, the House, simultaneously with the Senate, ratified the conference committee report on the proposed P1.541-trillion General Appropriations Act for this year before the Christmas break.

“The usual political prophets of doom were proven false. The 2010 national recovery budget only needs the signature of the President,” Nograles said.

Among the measures listed by the Committee on Rules for approval on third reading are House Bill 6883 or the Magna Carta of Agriculture and Fishery Development Workers, principally authored by Majority Leader Arthur Defensor, among others; HB 6699, prohibiting all corporal punishment and all other forms of humiliating or degrading punishment of children and promoting positive and non-violent discipline of children, principally authored by Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, among others; and HB 6987, or strengthening the Laguna Lake Development Authority principally authored by Rep. Edgar San Luis, among others. – Christina Mendez and Delon Porcalla

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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