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Lagman: House scrapped infra budget for 24 disobedient lawmakers out of vengeance

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Albay first-district Rep. Edcel Lagman has slammed the House leadership for deleting items in the 2018 budget for the constituencies of 24 uncooperative lawmakers, describing the move as an act of vendetta.

“Vengeance plus caprice equal zero allocations for authentic opposition Representatives and other targeted legislators in the House of Representatives,” he said in a statement.

Lagman added that, “steadfast critical dissent and perceived ‘waywardness’ have left the respective constituencies of two-dozen solons destitute of infrastructure projects under the 2018 General Appropriations Act.”

Lagman, who belongs to the Magnificent 7 bloc, is one of the 24 House members whose districts lost infrastructure funds in the budget for 2018.

Based on earlier news reports, the 24 House members who lost infrastructure funds for their districts or constituencies included members of the Magnificent 7 and Makabayan, as well as some Liberal Party members allied with the majority coalition.

“Zero allocations are projected to punish and silence opposition legislators even as it is their constituencies who are deprived of the benefits of infrastructure development,” Lagman said.

“Why punish citizens and communities for the earnest and valiant efforts of their Representatives to maintain responsible dissent as the bedrock of democracy?” he said.

He said the great majority of the deleted appropriations were not for so-called “pet projects” but for essential infrastructures intended for congressional districts in the 2018 National Infrastructure Program of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) under the “Build, Build, Build” scheme.

“These were not even requested by the affected Representatives and were included upon submission by DPWH in the President’s National Expenditure Program (NEP) on which the annual General Appropriations Bill (GAB) is entirely based,” he said.

The discarded projects were in the GAB which was approved on third reading by the House of Representatives but were surreptitiously deleted during the bicameral conference on the national budget reportedly upon instructions of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Alvarez said.

“What would be adversely affected are the construction of roads and bridges; highways leading to tourism destinations; diversion roads to decongest traffic; flood protection like dikes and seawalls; and public buildings,” he said.

“What is worse is that highways and bridges for completion in 2018 would be left hanging and unfinished,” Lagman said.

“Moreover, majority of the deleted infrastructure projects have already been bid out pursuant to government’s advance bidding schedule pending approval of the General Appropriations Act (GAA),” he added.