MANILA, AUGUST 4, 2011, (STANDARD) by Christine F. Herrera - THE administration on Tuesday sought to ward off accusations of favoritism in its disbursement of pork barrel, after 34 opposition congressmen said they would boycott the debates on the 2012 budget over the non-release of their priority development assistance funds.

“Our instruction is that no citizen of the republic will be deprived of what is rightfully theirs,” President Benigno Aquino III said.

“We will give them their rightful share of our national budget.”

Each congressman is entitled to P70 million in pork barrel each year, but Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Monday said 14 minority lawmakers had not received any releases, 18 had incomplete releases, and only two received their districts’ full allocation for the first half of the year.

In the House, Abad crossed swords with Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV, who had demanded to know why the Budget chief’s wife, Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, had received P364.82 million in infrastructure projects in 2012, while other congressional districts received nothing.

Abad said his wife’s district was deprived of pork barrel for three years under President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, while Cagas, an Arroyo ally, had been getting his allocations in full.

He disputed Cagas’ figures, but Cagas said he got those straight from the Budget Sources of Expenditures and Finances that Abad had submitted to Congress.

“Batanes suffered. It was my wife Dina who was representative from 2004 to 2007,” Abad said.

“She did not get her [funds] of around P140 million at least. Imagine what that huge amount of money could have done for poor Batanes.”

Abad, who served briefly as Education secretary in the Arroyo administration, was among the Hyatt 10 officials that resigned en masse in July 2005 to protest the alleged election fraud committed by Mrs. Arroyo.

He said he did not get back at the Arroyos and still released their allocations in 2010 and the first half of 2011. The Arroyos received their special allocation release orders on Monday.

To prove that the opposition was better treated under the Aquino administration, Abad said the funding for Cagas’ infrastructure projects had been increasing under the incumbent government, a claim the congressman denied.

Cagas said he could not find the P255.5 million in funding that Abad referred to in the 847-page budget document submitted to Congress.

“That’s nonsense, the books do not lie,” Cagas said.

“Where is the rest of the money?”

Abad said Cagas was looking at the wrong document.

“Tell him the details are in the Net Expenditures Program,” Abad said.

“That’s why they should attend our briefings.


Noy’s wheel and deal game EDITORIAL 08/02/2011

The squabble over pork between House members and the Palace brought out in public with supposed allies of Noynoy in the lower chamber throwing tantrums--on which Malacañang continues to play coy, trying to place the blame on Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, who happens to be also an ally — is truly a sight to behold.

The way the public sees the percolating feud is that it is all about bales of cash, with one either withholding or dangling it while the other is seen to be in a wild frenzy to get these. The picture evoked is really barbaric.

Had Noynoy been communicating with his supposed backers at the House and the Speaker, the spectacle perhaps would have been avoided. That or the honorable gentlemen of the House are already too starved to worry about manners.

Belmonte himself does not seem to be in the loop about why the pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) is not flowing but merely trickling into the House, and given only to those congressmen-lackeys who heeded his marching orders on their voting on two measures Noynoy wanted approved.

The Speaker even needed to remind the Palace that the approval of the 2012 budget may hang in the balance if it does not satisfactorily explain the slow pace of the PDAF’s release.

It appears that Noynoy will be using the PDAF to smoothen the passage of the 2012 budget and the doubling of the cash transfer allocation to more than P40 billion.

During the past administration, the charm of hard cash was used every time a crucial House decision was needed, particularly during the yearly impeachment proceedings lodged against Gloria Arroyo after loud cries of her having snatched the presidency in 2004.

Nothing seems to have changed despite the straight path that Noynoy is preaching.

The House members are now daring Noynoy to stand his ground on freezing the pork barrel allocations and for his Cabinet to defend his budget for all its worth.

Well, of course the threat is weak and just for show and is expected to dissipate once the Palace uncorks the pork tap.

The public will be left wondering, after all this is settled, what the fuss really was all about when the allies, satiated with the pork release, chummy up again with Noynoy and the budget gets through the House without going through the wringer and ahead of time. It always happens: The budget is always passed, just as it is ordered by the President and without cuts.

It’s all about money, make no mistake about it and these PDAF allocations being argued about are not exactly all going to the development of the districts or provinces of the honorable members of Congress.

Noynoy knows this and thus is timing the pork barrel release to use it in a carrot and stick game to lube up the approval of the P1.8-trillion budget for next year.

So much for the “straight path” and no corruption, no poverty mantra as the current friction between the Palace and the House is all about funds where the commissions and outright kickbacks will likely fatten some of the purse of the 200 or so members of the House.

Noynoy withholding the release of the funds, in turn, is using the pork barrel as a way to bribe the House members in getting them to do what he wants.

It may not be a new story since this has been the practice for so many years between the Palace and the House, the only issue being the practice being entirely against what the Filipinos are being led to believe Noynoy and his administration supposedly stands for.

Call it political horse trading, transactional politics or politics of accommodation, the method and the purpose are the same.

Buy off the legislature and get Noynoy’s problems over with.

Did Carandang aide quit or was he fired? BY WENDELL VIGILIA AND REGINA BENGCO

BULLETIN - Opposition congressmen said yesterday an assistant secretary was forced to resign after he refused to follow his boss’ order to sign a purchase order for computer sets which did not go through the proper bidding process,

House minority leader Edcel Lagman and Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay refused to identify the "boss," a Cabinet secretary, but said his initials are "RC," obviously referring to Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

Carandang said the assistant secretary, Reginald Tonggol, resigned on July 28 after he was given a talking to.

"We were taking so long in procuring office computers. It took him eight months. He didn’t know the procurement process. Nagmamarunong siya," Carandang said.

Tongol’s online profile showed that prior to his stint in Carandang’s office, he was an associate at the Chato & Vinzons-Chato Law Office, the political affairs officer of Rep. Liwayway Vinzons-Chato. He got his law degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.

Carandang also said it took Tonggol eight months to work on the P1.6-million procurement. He said he consulted with the Department of Budget and Management executives who told him that his office was following the wrong procedure.

"I took him aside. I told him, if you can’t do your job, you may want to look for another job because you’re not doing the office any good. He wasn’t performing. He didn’t say anything but the next day, he resigned," he said.

Lagman said the "asec" had a response to his boss. "I am a lawyer and I know the procurement law. Pwede ako makulong to sign a document that did not go through bidding," Lagman quoted the lawyer as saying.

Lagman also said the assistant secretary "resigned out of disgust."

He said the superior wanted to buy P1.6 million worth of computer sets using his credit card.

Magsaysay asked President Aquino to "make the secretary resign" because "he is not following the `(anti-)utak wang-wang policy.’"

"We in the minority will stand up and cheer him if he does what he says. It should start with his administration so everyone will follow,’’ she said.

Carandang said the procurement of the laptops no longer needed bidding because there were already two failed biddings due to lack of suppliers. He said he got the new computers on August 2.

Carandang said the allegation that his office obtained the laptops in a less-than-forthcoming manner is "a lie, and reeks of malevolent intent and political machinations." He said the opposition lawmakers should check their facts first.

He said the negotiated purchase was based on rules of the biddings and awards committee which holds meetings with a government auditor.

"All purchases were made at market prices with a scrupulous regard for the people’s money. Anyone who wishes to see the documents and receipts is welcome to do so," he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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