MANILA, MARCH 18, 2009
(STAR) By Jess Diaz - President Arroyo vetoed special provisions in the 2009 budget law that would have allowed congressmen to meddle in the use of funds intended for the construction of school buildings and public infrastructure projects.

“She rejected provisions requiring prior clearance from members of the House of Representatives,” an official of the Department of Budget and Management told The STAR yesterday.

A Senate-House conference committee co-chaired by Sen. Edgardo Angara and Quirino Rep. Junie Cua inserted the special provisions in the national budget.

One provision would have required the secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to consult the concerned congressman if a province, city or town is allowed to undertake an infrastructure project of the administration.

The DPWH has about P100 billion for infrastructure projects this year.

Under the proposed budget law, the DPWH secretary may authorize local government units with construction capability to undertake infrastructure projects worth not more than P50 million.

If a project is worth more than P50 million, the authority should come from President Arroyo.

However, before a project can be given to an LGU, the representative of the district where the infrastructure is located would have to be consulted.

The special provision inserted by the Angara-Cua committee reads: “In both cases, prior consultation shall be made with the representative of the district concerned.”

This means that both the DPWH secretary and the President would be required to consult the concerned congressman before they can allow an LGU to build a road or a bridge.

Mrs. Arroyo vetoed this special provision, as well as another section that would have required prior “concurrence” with concerned House members for classroom construction.

The provision reads: “Provided, that upon concurrence of the representative of the district concerned, local government units with construction capability may be allowed to undertake the construction of school buildings within their locality.”

The Angara-Cua committee proposed the special provisions despite a World Bank report linking certain lawmakers to the rigging of bids for infrastructure projects.

According to the report, politicians support contractors who give them the biggest bribes, commissions or kickbacks. They then make sure that their favored contractors win in the rigged biddings.

Many House members are believed to be meddling in and profiting from school building construction and other infrastructure projects. The inserted special provisions would have made such intervention official and legal.

Samar governor welcomes GMA’s veto

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, a former journalist who has criticized the proposed special provisions, welcomed the President’s decision to reject them.

He said local government units (LGUs) with construction capability should be allowed to undertake infrastructure projects like classroom construction to save money.

He said most LGUs have their own engineering offices and construction crews and can source construction materials in their own communities.

He said the special sections, had the President not rejected them, would have politicized the building of classrooms and the implementation of other infrastructure projects.

Evardone pointed out that under the vetoed provisions, LGUs with equipment to construct classrooms won’t be given the privilege to do so without the approval of their congressman or congresswoman.

“If the governor or mayor is a political enemy of the congressman or congresswomen, that approval will be denied and school building contracts will be given to private contractors,” he said.

House members will give their approval only to mayors loyal to them or who promise to support them, he added.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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