Nothing irregular in naming Dinagat Islands caretaker says House Majority Gonzales

photo credit: Kaya Natin
 
MANILA, Philippines - House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II yesterday said there was nothing irregular in the designation of Akbayan party-list Rep. Kaka Bag-ao as caretaker of the congressional district of convicted Dinagat Islands Rep. Ruben Ecleo.
Gonzales said that by tradition and practice, the House of Representatives always names a caretaker for a congressional district that cannot for any reason be represented by its duly elective representative.
He said it is through the caretaker that requests for funding for projects are coursed through.
Gonzales added pork barrel funds are intended for the district and not for the representative personally.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda also said yesterday that it was an “entirely legislative prerogative” of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to designate Bag-ao as caretaker of Ecleo’s district.
“It’s a tradition to appoint a caretaker,” he said. Bag-ao hails from Dinagat Islands.
Lacierda recalled that Dinagat province had since had a problem with the Supreme Court that issued a flip-flopping decision on whether it is really a province or not.
“As far as we know, Dinagat has been deprived of representation and the benefits of national government by reason of the issue before the SC. And so, for the past number of years, they have been deprived of the IRA (internal revenue allotment) from the national government,” he said. 
The Budget department has reportedly released P138.875 million in pork barrel funds for 2011 and 2012 for Ecleo’s district last December.
“It’s all there in the DBM website where Secretary (Florencio) Abad provided and outlined the PDAF (priority development assistance fund) given to their respective districts. I have no knowledge exactly on the details of those but I think the best way to answer that is to go to DBM. It’s all there,” Lacierda said.
Bag-ao, who is running for Dinagat congresswoman, said the release of the PDAF for the district was long overdue as Ecleo failed to meet the basic needs of the constituents.
Ecleo remains in hiding after being convicted for serious crimes, including his wife’s killing in 2002. He was removed from the House roster after the Supreme Court upheld a Sandiganbayan ruling finding him guilty of anomalies when he was mayor of San Jose, Surigao del Norte from 1991 to 1994.
Bag-ao said she was simply doing what any lawmaker should be doing: ensuring the release of the PDAF for projects in the district.
“When I was designated caretaker, I immediately went to work and looked at all the long-overdue projects, and the resolutions and requests of local officials and the barangay captains for food, water, electricity, medicine and other needs have already piled up,” she said.
She said her designation as caretaker was recommended to Belmonte by Surigao del Norte Reps. Francisco Matugas and Francisco Romarate. With Paolo Romero/philstar.com

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