Pimentel accused of misleading focus on House budget over 'costly' Senate building

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - Philstar.com
Pimentel accused of misleading focus on House budget over 'costly' Senate building
Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel and Sen. Win Gatchalian attend the June 11, 2024 meeting on the preliminary evaluations of the MATATAG K-to-10 Curriculum’s initial implementation.
Facebook / Senator Koko Pimentel

MANILA, Philippines — The “Young Guns” at the House of Representatives on Friday lambasted Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III for questioning the chamber’s budget this year, saying he was just diverting the issue from the costly New Senate Building project in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Taguig.

House Assistant Majority Leader and Zamboanga Rep. Jay Khonghun said instead of hitting congressmen, Pimentel should “welcome” their move to “applaud the decision of the new Senate leadership to uphold the principles of good governance.”

“Almost everybody (is) in praise of Senate President Chiz Escudero’s decision to suspend construction of the new Senate building pending comprehensive review. All except Sen. Pimentel who, last we heard, was still the minority leader. What gives?” he noted.

Khonghun added they could not understand why Pimentel was “angry” with them.

On Thursday, the Young Guns hit Senate’s “wasteful spending” on the NSB which originally amounted to P14.4 billion, but now apparently ballooned to P23.3 billion.

In response to this, Pimentel told the congressmen to “first look at the dramatic increase in the budget of the House from P16 billion – as reflected in President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s proposed budget – to the final amount of P28 billion in the General Appropriations Act of 2024.”

According to House Assistant Majority Leader and Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Jil Bongalon, it was unnecessary for Pimentel to divert the issue by comparing the budget of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Bongalon said it is clear that the House “with its over 300 members, does not have a P23-billion building project.”

“Sen. Pimentel’s attempts to divert scrutiny from the Senate’s controversial expenditure by highlighting the House’s budget increase are unfounded and misleading,” he said.

Bongalon added that “public funds must be utilized transparently and judiciously, irrespective of the agency or branch of government.”

For 1-Rider party-list Rep. Rodge Gutierrez, “there is no need to be onion-skinned about criticisms aimed at the Senate’s spending.”

“As public officials, we must all be open to scrutiny, especially when it concerns the use of taxpayers’ money,” Gutierrez said.

He maintained that the public deserves to know why the cost of the Senate building has “escalated so dramatically.”

“Your role as a senator should include ensuring accountability and transparency, not merely defending controversial projects,” Gutierrez added.

Assistant Majority Leader and La Union Rep. Paolo Ortega described Pimentel’s defense of the budget allocation for the new Senate building as “unnecessary” and a “distraction from the core issue,” which is the responsible use of public funds.

“What we need is transparency and accountability. The question remains: why has the NSB’s budget ballooned to P23.3 billion, from its original allocation of P8.9 billion?” Ortega said.  — Sheila Crisostomo

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