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No reason to change House leadership - Bayan Muna

MANILA, Philippines - Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares denied yesterday that there are moves in the House of Representatives to oust Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

He said the rumors of an alleged ouster plot against Belmonte could just be intrigue.

“I do not know of any reason why the Speaker should be ousted,” he said.

The supposed ouster plot was hatched by congressmen complaining about the alleged delay in the release of their pork barrel allocations, officially called the Priority Development Assistant Fund (PDAF).

Colmenares said that insofar as the PDAF is concerned, “Bayan Muna’s position has always been that it should not be used by any administration for its political interests.”

Bayan Muna and most party-list groups had voted for Belmonte as Speaker.

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Among those who have complained about the delay in the release of pork barrel funds are members of the minority or opposition bloc.

But Belmonte has assured his colleagues that he has been working on the release of their allocations and that the Palace has not been withholding their funds.        

He has told a news conference that in fact, “131 members of the House have received or are in the process of receiving the first tranche of their allocations.”

“My office is now looking for some of our members so they can get their SAROs (Special Allotment Release Orders),” he said.

A SARO is a Department of Budget and Management (DBM) document confirming the release of funds.

Belmonte said the first tranche is equivalent to P35 million, or half of a congressman’s annual pork barrel allocation of P70 million.

He said the P35 million is both for “hard” projects like roads and for “soft” projects like medical, educational and livelihood assistance.

He said an additional 90 members “have already submitted their list of projects but have not received their SAROs.”

“I just had a meeting with DBM Secretary Butch (Florencio) Abad to follow up their submissions. I have been following up everybody’s request,” he added.

He pointed out that the remaining 63 House members have not submitted their list of projects.

He released a list of the 63, which includes himself, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and her two congressmen-sons, Diosdado of Camarines Sur and Juan Miguel of the party-list group Ang Galing Pinoy, which claims to represent tricycle drivers and security guards.

The Arroyos belong to the opposition in the House, which Minority Leader Edcel Lagman heads.

The list of those who have yet to submit their projects also includes some staunch allies of the former president, such as Danilo Suarez of Quezon and Arthur Yap of Bohol. Yap served as agriculture secretary in the Arroyo administration.

Not in the list were Lagman and Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas, who has complained about the alleged non-release of pork barrel funds.

Cagas must be among the 90 who have submitted their projects but who have yet to receive their SAROs.

“Mr. President, where is our pork?” he asked during a recent minority news conference, addressing President Aquino.

This year’s pork barrel holds about P25 billion for members of the House and the Senate. Each senator receives P200 million, or nearly three times a congressman’s allocation. 

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