Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said that the P100 million that each lawmaker at the House of Representatives will be receiving PHP100 million under the proposed PHP4.1 trillion national budget for 2020 is not “pork barrel.”


Salceda said that these were not classified as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel, which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional in 2013.
In the previous administration, PDAF erupted into a full-blown scandal involving senators and congressmen alleged to have received huge kickbacks from PDAF-funded projects implemented by scam queen Janet Lim.


Each lawmaker at the House of Representatives will be receiving PHP100 million under the proposed PHP4.1 trillion national budget for 2020, Salceda said Wednesday.
Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, bared that of the amount, PHP70 million will be allocated for hard projects, such as infrastructure, while PHP30 million will be used for soft projects, such as medical assistance.
Asked if there were any allocations for congressmen, Salceda said: “Of course there are allocations for my constituents.”
“To ensure everybody has some minimum, PHP100 (million), yes. But that’s basically PHP70 million of infrastructure and they were itemized in the NEP (National Expenditure Program) and there is no such thing as non-itemized expenditure there,” Salceda said during the weekly economic media briefing in Malacañang.
Salceda said the PHP100 million was determined by the executive branch.
He also assured that the proposed 2020 national budget would be pork-free.
“It’s free of pork based on Supreme Court standards. And the mere fact that there are new insertions… as is, where is,” Salceda later said in a media interview.
He said it is free from pork because there are no individual amendments or alignments made to the proposed budget unlike previous years.
“There are no individual amendments, there are only three institutional amendments,” Salceda said, namely amendments to develop the education, health sectors, Camp Aguinaldo and other sectors.
“It also smells, acts, quacks like a need of my constituents and it also smells, acts, quacks as if it’s allowed by the Supreme Court,” he added.
The House of Representatives is composed of 299 districts and party-list representatives.
Duterte allies working
Salceda, meanwhile, bared that the House will approve the proposed 2020 national budget on second reading on Friday (Sept. 20) and approve it on third and final reading by next week.
“So the 2020 budget, I’m sure will be approved by September 20. The earliest approved budget at the House in history,” Salceda said.
“We will approve on second reading on Friday. Parehas lang, wala nang magbabago (It’s the same, nothing changes) after second reading. Yung third reading nominal voting na yun (On the third reading, we’ll do nominal voting),” he added.
Salceda expressed hope that the Senate would also follow the House’s footsteps by passing the proposed budget as early as possible, to prove that the allies of President Rodrigo Duterte are working.
“We just wanna prove that the ‘Duterte Super Coalition’ in the House is working, and I hope the so-called ‘Duterte Super Coalition of 20’ in the Senate will do the same,” he added.
In a separate media interview, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo assured that the President will veto the proposed budget should there be provisions he finds “unconstitutional.”
“Antayin natin pag sinubmit na kay Presidente (Let’s wait for it to be submitted to the President) then the President will decide if it is pork or not. He will veto it if it is against the Constitution,” Panelo said. (PNA)


₱30.4 million went to office consultants


Former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is Number One in the list of biggest spenders in the House of Representatives for 2017, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

Based on the COA’s itemized list of amounts paid to and expenses incurred by lawmakers,  Davao del Norte First District Rep. Alvarez, spent ₱43.7 million on his second year as Speaker, ₱30.4 million of which went to office consultants.

The amount does not include the discretionary fund of the Office of the House Speaker which could run into billions of pesos.
The House last year dropped from its payroll contractual employees connected with the office of Alvarez, who is seeking reelection in the May mid-term election.
In a memorandum on July 30, 2018 , Director II Evelyn de Jesus of the Human Resource Management Service of the House  ordered the House  Accounting Services to delete a list of 42 contractual employees assigned at the office of the Speaker effective August 2018.
The memorandum came just days after Alvarez was replaced on July 24, 2018 as House Speaker by Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Sources at the House of Representatives revealed that the list did not include at least 121 consultants receiving monthly compensation from P20,000 to P50,000.  
The list of contractual employees and consultants were included on the payroll beginning on July 16, 2016.
Last year, the list of consultants and contractual employees was made public.  In the list were radio broadcasters based in Davao del Norte. 
The list of contractual workers included Rommel Pastoral, a broadcaster who engages in the racket of selling in his radio program purportedly winning numbers in the Philippine lottery, with a salary of  P50,000 a month.
Also in the list is Ruel Dagsangan, who receives a monthly stipend of P50,000. Radioman Dagsangan works as a regular employee of the Tagum City-based DXDN Radyo Ukay of the University of Mindanao.
The radio broadcasters in the payroll of the office of Alvarez, based on their broadcast, are identified in Davao del Norte as belonging to the “media bureau’  of the former Speaker.
With a total estimated monthly compensation of P1,082,000, the contractual employees were paid an estimated total of P12,984,012 after two two years.


Three lawmakers from Mindanao, two from Davao Region and one from North Cotabato, are in the list of the biggest spenders.
Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-list Representative Jericho Nograles followed Alvarez in the list with a total of ₱23.4 million expenses that year.
A third Mindanaoan solon is in the top five — North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco with her 2017 expenditures reaching ₱20.62 million.
Kalinga congressman Allen Jesse Mangaoang is on third with ₱22 million, followed by former DIWA Party-list Representative and now Department of Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar with ₱20.5 million.

A snake in the grass

taerigor-zabalaBeing “immoral” is only one of the many “sins” of Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.

pantaleon-alvarezHe is accused of breaking up the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), the party that helped propel former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the Presidency in the 2016 election with his “dictatorial” attitude in muscling members of the House of Representatives into voting for controversial bills, without thinking.
He ran head-on with Duterte over the impeachment of Vice President Leni Robredo.
He had no qualms about bragging in public in this Catholic-dominant nation that he has two other women aside from his wife and siring a total of 8 children.
In his congressional base in Davao del Norte’s First District, people sneer at him as a “snake in the grass” who bit the hand of those behind his dramatic rise from his dead politics to become one of the highest officials of the country.
Alvarez has filed with Ombudsman graft charges against political ally and longtime friend Davao del Norte First District Congressman Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo, Jr. in connection with the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) signed between the Floirendo-owned Tagum Development Corporation (Tadeco) and the Bureau (BuCor) involving more than 5,000 hectares of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) in Sto. Tomas town in Davao del Norte.
Alvarez alleged that Floirendo was a sitting congressman and did not divest of his interest in Tadeco at the time of the signing of the JVA in 2013.
Alvarez also said the JVA was disadvantageous to the government, with Tadeco paying only P5,000 per hectare of the land it used in growing export Cavendish bananas.
Tadeco is a prioneering banana growing and exporting company founded by the late Don Antonio Floirendo, Sr., Tonyboy’s father.
Tadeco made the once economically-dormant Davao del Norte as the country’s banana capital and placed the Philippines in the map of the world’s top banana exporting countries.
Tadeco and the Floirendos were and still are a factor in Davao del Norte which helped politicians. Bringing back Alvarez to life from his political grave is one benevolent act that the Floirendos have done.
It is generally agreed in Davao del Norte that Alvarez was resurrected from his dead politics, which slept in limbo for more than a decade, by Floirendo who backed his congressional bid in the 2016 election.
Alvarez had been considered as “politically dead” after a single term in Congress from 1998 to 2001, and as Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In the 2016 election, Alvarez joined the  presidential band wagon of Duterte, of which Floirendo was a major  campaign contributor. He would be elected as House Speaker with the support of Floirendo and Duterte and the PDP.
In his complaint against Florendo, Alvarez said Tadeco is cheating the government in the Tadeco-Dapecol JVA deal, which was actually approved by Congress.
Is the Speaker clean?
Alvarez’s  stint with DoTC was marked with a plunder rap with the Ombudsman involving a company partly- owned by his wife which undertook a project at the Manila  International Airport Authority(MIAA).
The MIAA-NAIA Association of Service Contractors (MASO) filed in 2001 a plunder case  against Alvarez and other officials  for alleged anomaly in the award without public bidding of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract to Philippine International Air Terminals Co Inc (Piatco). At the time, Alvarez was the MIAA senior assistant general manager.   
According to a report by Newsbreak in 2001, Alvarez’s wife Emelita owned 33% of Wintrack Builders Inc, a company that supposedly profited from an excess of P76.49 million ($1.64 million) from excavation work it did with Piatco.
Duterte has asked the leadership of the House of Representatives not to proceed with the impeachment case filed against Robredo. Alvarez said, No, we will proceed. Is power getting into the head of the Speaker that he now wants to collide head-on with the President?
The Death Penalty Bill no matter how controversial would have passed no matter the loud noises from the opposition, because it had presidential backing. There was no need for dictator Alvarez to railroad its passage with threats of expulsion from the party or removal from committee chairmanship if a congressman would not vote for approval of the bill.
Alvarez brags that he could not care less if he loses the Speakership.
The frustration at the House over his leadership is loud and clear and the air points to that direction.
In the meantime, let us wait for the House ethics committee to summon Alvarez over his love affairs. Morality is a treasured principle of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Supreme Court and we would not be surprised if one of these days, Alvarez would be defrocked as a lawyer by disbarment for immorality.
Whether Alvarez is dislodged as House Speaker or if he loses his license as a lawyer, or in a worst case scenario is thrown out of Duterte’s circle, the people of Davao del Norte who voted him to office would not care.
Rightly so. For who needs a snake in the grass?




ATIENZA: We should find another Speaker



Philippine legislators are dismayed at being arm-twisted into supporting a bill re-imposing death penalty and are after the head of the Speaker of the  House of Representatives for rail roading approval of the controversial bill with threats.

lito-atienza“We should find another Speaker,” said Representative Lito Atienza of the party-list Buhay Party. Party-list groups have a 20 percent representation in the 286-member House.

“We are here not for the pleasure of the Speaker or the President,” said Gabriela partylist Rep. Emmi de Jesus, chairperson of the House committee on poverty alleviation.

With his arm-twisting, the Speaker is  losing the support of his allies, said Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque.

In what is seen as an attempt to railroad approval of the bill, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on February 8, gathered members of the House “Super Majority” in a caucus to press support for House Bill No. 4727 that has drawn widespread criticism from the public, including opposition and administration legislators.

robredoVice President Leni Robredo has added fire to the fray by urging legislators opposing the bill to stand up against  Alvarez, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte has asked the House to prioritize approval of the bill.

Robredo said members of the House can prove their leadership if they spurn Alvarez and vote against the controversial bill.

This is a “defining moment” for legislators, said Robredo.

HB 4727 has now reached the plenary after House justice committee chairperson Reynaldo Umali tossed the bill for 2nd reading on February 7.

Alvarez had earlier warned that House Deputy Speakers and chairmen of committees would lose their posts if they would not support the bill that would send to death row people committing heinous crimes.

Imposing capital punishment had been removed from the statutes by the Philippine Congress in 1986.

Alvarez reiterated his warning  to unseat Deputy Secretaries and House committee chairmen, and kick out legislators from the majority bloc, if they would not support the bill, during the January 8 caucus.

Legislators, in interviews with media, expressed dismay at Alvarez’s arm-twisting  as soon as they emerged from the caucus.

In a news conference, apparently aware of Alvarez’s arm-twisting, Robredo urged lawmakers to vote based on principles on the death penalty bill.

“Leaders should be ready to defy the orders (that) are not aligned with their beliefs,” said the Vice President, adding her voice to the opposition. Robredo run and won the vice presidency in the May 2016 polls under the banner of the then administration Liberal Party of then outgoing  President Benigno Aquino whose standard bearer former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was soundly defeated by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino\Laban (PDP/Laban). Robredo is in the forefront of criticizing some programs of the Duterte administration. The death penalty bill is a priority of the President.

Robredo said legislators would have their “defining moment” when the death penalty bill is placed on a vote.
“This could be a defining moment … and (the legislators’) chance to… stand firm on what they believe in,” she said.

Her urging helped spark speculations over a rumored plan by legislators to unseat Alvarez as House Speaker for arm-twisting legislators into supporting the bill. The rumor spread after the January 8 caucus.

There is a yawning divide among members of the House over Bill No. 4727.

But number, and Alvarez’s arm-twisting, is a crucial factor that could ensure the passage of the bill.

The so-called “Super Majority,” a coalition led by the PDP-Laban, has 269 members of the 286-member House. With the majority bloc’s “party vote,” the bill could easily sail to approval.

At the forefront of the opposition to the bill is the Makabayan bloc, a seven-member group of progressive party-list legislators.
“Unfair,” said Gabriela partylist Rep. Emmi de Jesus, chairperson of the House committee on poverty alleviation, of Alvarez’s attempt to railroad passage of the bill by arm-twisting legislators with threats.

“We are here not for the pleasure of the Speaker or the President.  It’s unfair for us because we are here (for) pro-people issues,” she said.

Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque warned the arm-twisting could result to Alvarez losing support of allies in the Super Majority.

“Alvarez (is) driving people to the arms of the (opposition). Do not drive away our numbers to the enemy,” Roque, whose party has joined the Super Majority, advised Alvarez.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said Alvarez’s threat to disenfranchise deputy speakers and committee chairmen is shaking down the majority bloc allied with Duterte, who considers HB 4727 a priority bill.

“If Speaker Alvarez is twisting the arms of (the majority legislators), then he’s committing a very serious mistake … because he is now trampling on the principles of each member of the majority,” said Atienza, a vocal oppositor of  capital punishment.

This “could lead to the members of the majority to think twice in following their leader. Maybe we should go find another Speaker,” he added.

Atienza urged legislators to deal the bill with a “conscience vote not a party vote.”

With his arm-twisting, Alvarez, according to Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr, “risks losing the support of the political parties comprising the super coalition.”

“Most of the parties have adopted a policy of conscience vote. But if the Speaker insists, then he wants Congress to become an authoritarian body, not a democratic one,” said Baguilat.

Kabayan’s Roque, said Alvarez’s latest statement could drive several congressmen to rejoin the once-ruling LP, that now leads the minority in the House.

“This is not the right time to discuss the death penalty because it is very divisive. This gives the enemies of this administration the traction they need to get stronger support in the House,” said Roque.

According to sources, about 50 legislators, including administration allies, are expected to interpellate the bill’s sponsors when the bill is deliberated at plenary.


In the Senate, President Franklin Drilon said the death penalty bill would face rough sailing with 10 of the 24-member Senate against re-imposing death penalty.

We only need two more votes to kill the bill, said Drilon, who adds the bill is on the priority list of Senators.

Even if approved by both the Upper House and Lower House, the death penalty bill would run into trouble with the Supreme Court when the legality of the bill is questioned.

Drilon said the Philippines is bound by an international covenant which banned signatory countries from imposing capital punishment.

Drilon said the High Court respects international treaties and was expected to honor the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the Philippines signed in 1966.

ICCPR was ratified by the Senate in 1986, on the year that it killed death penalty.