P2.3B more pork for new party-list reps
MANILA, Philippines—The House of Representatives will need about P2.31 billion for the pork barrel alone of the additional 33 party-list lawmakers that should be proclaimed because of a Supreme Court ruling that is effective immediately. This, on top of the P200 million needed for their staff and day-to-day operations.
The amounts exclude the expenses for their new offices, electricity and other needs for the remaining eight months of the year, Speaker Prospero Nograles said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court increased to 55 the number of seats in the House for party-list groups, or 20 percent of the chamber as prescribed by the Constitution, when it ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to follow a new formula for allotting party-list seats.
There are currently 22 seats in the 14th Congress occupied by party-list groups.
Each member of the House is entitled to P70 million a year in Priority Development Assistance Fund, more commonly known as the pork barrel, to finance their pet projects. Senators get P200 million a year.
The pork barrel is not given in cash, though. The lawmakers just identify the projects and beneficiaries for which funding should be allocated.
A total of P200 million is needed for the salaries of the lawmakers’ staff, office supplies and other office needs.
A lawmaker is entitled to a minimum of six regular staff members in the House, plus consultants.
Lawmakers also get transportation allowances, which varies depending on where their districts are located.
The House would need to pass a supplemental budget to fund the new lawmakers’ needs, according to Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte and Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia.
Garcia said the budget for 2009, which was already signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was intended for a House of 240 members.
Nograles also has another problem aside from where to get the funding.
Where to put them
He does not know where to put his 33 new colleagues since there are no office spaces currently available.
“My other problem is where to put these new party-list congressmen and where to get new funding for their staff and day-to-day operations because they have no allocation under the 2009 General Appropriations Act,” the Speaker said in a statement.
The other day, Nograles said that if there would be no budget for the new lawmakers, “then everybody takes a cut, I guess.”
He said new offices would be available at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City after the completion of the four-story South Wing Annex Building. The P700-million building is expected to be finished next year.
But the Speaker said he had no choice but to accommodate the 33 party-list representatives.