By Billy Begas
Allies of House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco slammed the camp of Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano for his supporters’ attempt to drag the Marinduque lawmaker in the issue involving the P20 billion pension and gratuity fund of uniformed government personnel that was diverted to infrastructure projects.
Senior Deputy Speaker Salvador Leachon said it was clear based on the explanation of House Committee on Appropriations chairperson Eric Yap that the slashed P20 billion will not be used this year to pay the pension and gratuity of uniformed personnel.
“Based on Congressman Yap’s accounts, which I find to be accurate, the current problems involving the pension of uniformed retirees was due to the P70-billion cut in their budget for the year 2020, during Cayetano’s term,” Leachon said.
Yap said that the House then led by Cayetano slashed P70 billion from the 2020 national budget.
Earlier, Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor said that he did not know what happened then. “Hindi ko ho alam kung nag-usap sila (House-led Cayetano and Department of Budget and Management) pero ang sigurado ko ho nagrereklamo ngayon ang DBM dahil binawasan ang pension fund.”
Yap claimed that the DBM knows the reduction of budget.
“Their unfounded allegations against Speaker Velasco boomeranged to them when it turned out the current problems faced by uniformed retirees was brought about by the more than P70 billion deducted from the 2020 PGF budget during Cayetano’s time,” said Leachon.
Defensor contradicted Leachon’s claim in a text message. “How can it have boomeranged when Chair Eric Yap admitted that they slashed the Pension and Gratuity Fund by 20 billion. They should not over complicate and over think- return the 20 billion to our military, police and uniformed personnel pension and gratuity fund.”
Defensor also challenged the camp of Velasco to show to the public that they did not use it as pork barrel fiund.
Deputy Speaker and Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves said Defensor’s accusations were “part of an obvious attempt to antagonize Speaker Velasco.”
“It was obviously premeditated with some members of the so-called ‘BTS sa Kongreso’ present to interpellate Defensor and tried but failed to amplify the allegations against Speaker Velasco,” Teves said referring to Back To Service sa Kongreso formed by Cayetano in January.
Teves added that the game plan of Cayetano’s camp was to make Velasco “look bad in the eyes of President Duterte by attacking the Speaker on an issue very close to the Chief Executive’s heart—the pension and gratuity pay of police and military retirees.”
Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, meanwhile, blasted Cayetano’s group for hypocrisy following the revelation of Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab that the Cayetano-led House manipulated the 2020 national budget, which resulted in budget cuts totaling P209 billion, including the P70 billion slashed from pension and gratuity fund.
“Umaalma sila sa binawas na P20 billion na napunta naman sa COVID-19 response ng gobyerno pero ‘yung P70 bilyon at kabuuang P209 bilyon na tinapyas nila sa 2020 national budget e okay lang sa kanila,” said Atienza.
Defensor said it is not true that the P20 billion went to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.
He said that based on the copy of the General Appropriations Act, the budget for vaccines remained at P2.5 billion.