MANILA, Philippines—A war over “pork” has erupted between two neophyte congressmen representing the same partylist group.
Rep. Johnny Revilla assailed Rep. Roy Señeres on Thursday, for moving to allocate both of their congressional pork barrel strictly for overseas Filipino workers, the primary constituency of their group, the OFW Family Club (OFWFC).
“He cannot allocate my pork barrel to anyone unless I say yes,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone, noting that the allocation, also known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), was given to congressmen, not partylist groups.
Señeres, the founder and chairman of the OFWFC, earlier wrote Speaker Feliciano Belmonte “strongly” recommending that his group’s combined pork barrel be set aside for three agencies for “welfare assistance and protection of OFWs.”
Since the OFWFC won two seats, the amount would hit P140 million because Señeres and Revilla were entitled to P70 million each.
Revilla said Señeres’ letter was meant to “make me look bad if I say no” to the proposal.
“It’s funny because he also offered mine and he never consulted me,” said Revilla, who has been facing a disqualification case filed by his own group for his alleged failure to denounce his American citizenship. He has denied the allegation, saying the case was filed to allow the daughter of the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to take his post as second nominee.
Señeres has denied Revilla’s claim, saying the younger Napoles was no longer a substitute nominee in the wake of the alleged P10-billion racket involving her mother.
The Señeres letter was dated Sept. 12, the day after the House committee on appropriations voted to “abolish” PDAF worth P25.2 billion in next year’s national budget. The committee proposal was to spread the amount, along with Vice President Jejomar Binay’s P200-million pork barrel, to six government agencies.
Under the new scheme, each congressman would still get to “propose” up to five “hard projects” (concreting of roads and building of multipurpose halls), subject to the approval of the committee and agency concerned.
Revilla said Señeres had no business allocating his pork barrel, especially since the PDAF had already been scrapped.
“First of all, there’s no more PDAF so I don’t know what he will be giving,” he said.
In the letter, Señeres wanted the OFWFC’s P140-million pork to go the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, and Department of Public Works and Highways. He said the amount could be used to buy “tickets for stranded OFWs, blood money and legal assistance.”
Señeres said part of the amount could also be used to build “community centers in areas in the Philippines where there is a huge concentration of OFWs and families.”
Señeres said that out of DOLE’s proposed P11-billion budget in 2014, “only” P499 million was set aside for the “protection of OFWs.”
“This is not proper considering that 25 percent or 10 million out of the P40 million total labor force of the Philippines are posted abroad,” he argued, insisting that “25 percent” of the agency’s budget should go to OFWs.
Revilla threw his support behind his colleague on this observation, saying “it’s unfair that they are budgeting too little for OFWs.”
He said he would await Belmonte’s formal action on the Señeres letter.
“I won’t answer the letter anymore unless the Speaker asks for my opinion,” he said. “I am not a signatory in the letter.”