September 24, 2019


Let's thoroughly dissect the House budget issue and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano's excruciatingly problematic defense. Nililihis ang istorya e. Akala siguro e makalulusot.

On 20 Sept 2019, House Accounts Committee chair and Cavite Rep. Bambol Tolentino told GMA News that that the House seeks P1.6-billion on top of its original proposed P14-billion budget for 2020. 

Tolentino said:
“We did not expect that there will be additional Deputy Speaker; we did not expect that there will be additional vice chairpersons on [House Committees] on Appropriations and Ways and Means; we did not expect either that there will be newly created committees… We are talking about all the employees, over 4,000, including those who are in a contractual status, permanents and other employees.”
I found this alarming on several grounds…


The sheer number of deputy speakers as the House had only:
  • ONE deputy speaker from 1946 to 1995
  • TWO deputy speakers from 1995 to 1998
  • FOUR to SIX deputy speakers from 1998 to 2016
  • FOURTEEN deputy speakers from 2016 to 2019
While there was a radical increase of deputy speakers during the 17th Congress under the leadership of Speaker Bebot Alvarez (and subsequently, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), I was willing to tolerate it given that PRRD really had to curry the favor of the House.

The Liberal Party was the single biggest power bloc in the 300-member 2016 House. Given that the President had a lot on his legislative agenda that needed massive congressional support, I understood and recognized the political reality that he needs to bring them to his side, hence the jump from six deputy speakers in the 16th Congress to fourteen in the 17th.

Come 2019, however, the President’s own PDP-Laban (where PRRD belongs) and Nacionalista (where Speaker Cayetano belongs) dominated the elections with 94 and 37 congressional seats each. Adding the generally pro-administration NPC’s 33 seats and NUP’s 28 seats, the total number of administration-aligned congressmen is 192, a clear supermajority.

Alvarez in 2016 increased the number of deputies by 8 (from 6 to 14) because most of the solons are anti-administration. That I would understand because I recognize political realities.

And in fairness to the 17th Congress, their performance is far better than their predecessors, in as far as supporting the President’s legislative agenda.

But unlike 2016, a pro-administration supermajority already won in 2019, so what necessitated Cayetano’s decision to add eight more (from 14 to 22)?

It would’ve been understandable if Cayetano merely retained the 14 deputy speakership positions from the last Congress, but why did he need to create eight more?

While we’re at it, I would not have cared if Cayetano made deputy speakers out of all the 300 solons if not for the fact that each deputy speaker requires additional funds that come from guess what?

PUBLIC FUNDS. Public funds that could’ve been used for healthcare, agriculture, education, infrastructure and social services instead… or public funds that could’ve been saved to minimize the country’s ballooning budget deficit.
This is issue is quite similar to the Dengvaxia Scandal.Was P3.5 billion for an experimental vaccine the best use of public funds? Similarly, is P1.6 billion additional House budget the best use of public funds?


The 17th Congress under Speakers Alvarez and Arroyo were able to pass ALL of PRRD’s legislative measures with a 2018 budget of just Php 11 billion. If the that House can accomplish the task with that amount, why do we have to increase it?

As shown in a 03 June 2019 infographic posted in Thinking Pinoy, the House of Representatives under GMA (and predecessor Alvarez) passed ALL of PRRD's 28 priority bills... and they had only a P11-B budget in 2018.

Fine, there’s inflation, so let’s say we should increase the House budget by 10% annually to neutralize rising costs, but that means that the 2019 budget must be only Php 12.1 billion, and 2020 only Php 13.31 billion.

The House, according to Rep. Tolentino, initially asked for Php 14 billion and I think that I can tolerate the extra Php 690 million on top of Php 13.31 billion projection. However, what I do not understand is why the House had to increase the budget even further, to the tune of P1.6 billion pesos.

Again, if Alvarez and Gloria whose House was initially anti-PRRD were able to pass all needed laws with just Php 11 billion, why does Cayetano, whose House is overwhelmingly pro-PRRD, asking for Php 14 billion + Php 1.6 billion – Php 11 billion = Php 4.6 billion more?

Speaker Cayetano, the House today are already allies, so why did you feel the need for more political accommodations?


Recall that Rep. Tolentino, who handles House finances, said the P1.6-B will be to fund the following:
  • new deputy speakerships
  • new committees
  • new vice-chairs, and
  • employee salaries.
Now, if there are X employee positions in 2019, then the House in preparing its 2020 budget must take into account salaries for those X number of employee positions, regardless of who’s occupying them. That is, the initial P14-B must already take into account the salary expenses of the current set of positions.

In short, we could only surmise that the employee salaries that Tolentino mentioned are for NEW regular and contractual positions. That is, logic dictates that the P1.6-B is intended for:
  • NEW deputy speakerships
  • NEW committees
  • NEW vice-chairs, and
  • NEW employees.
NEW. NEW. NEW. NEW. Yes, that’s four “NEW”s out of four.

This brings us back to the second point. The Arroyo-Alvarez House managed to pass ALL of PRRD’s legislative measures WITHOUT these NEW positions, and they passed the measures so fast the Philippine Star even accused the Arroyo-Alvarez House of being the rubber stamp of Malacañang.

If P11-B 2018 House budget can already buy what the Star calls a rubber stamp congress, what necessitated the extra 4.6?

I can smell only one thing: political accommodation.

Again, political accommodation, while ideally reprehensible, is in my opinion tolerable if done at the minimum… but where does Cayetano draw the line?


The initial GMA News report was on 20 September 2019, and Cayetano encountered an avalance of criticisms shortly thereafter.

Responding to criticisms over the P1.6 billion issue, Speaker Cayetano said:
“For the past two days, may mga nangungulit about, actually fake news 'yung nasa isang blogger na sinabi niyang we added P1.6 billion for the 22 deputy speakers. We used to have 14 deputy speakers, we now have 22. If we're going to add P1.6 billion for additional 8 deputy speakers, that's P200 million for every deputy speaker… Ang problema sa blogger na 'to – aside from [having an] axe to grind sa akin – hindi man lang tiningnan 'yung actual records ng Congress or 'yung news.”
Let’s dissect Cayetano’s problematic response. Note that you must already know who that blogger is.

Despite the typically verbose speaking style, Speaker Cayetano said only two things:
  • That the blogger is criticizing him only because the former has an axe to grind.
  • It’s not true that each new deputy speaker will get Php 200 million.
The first statement is nothing but a personal attack that is unbecoming of a government official. The same issue is being raised by OTHER people, including his predecessor DFA Sec. Perfecto Yasay.

Speaker Cayetano, act with the dignity of someone in your position, and recognize your responsibility to the Filipino People, the same Filipino People who are funding your politics. If you can't be civil and professional when facing criticisms, you do not deserve to be there.

As for the second point, what we see here is a clear case of a negative pregnant statement, which is extremely disappointing because Cayetano’s a lawyer who should know better than a college dropout blogger he’s referring to.
The Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute defines a “negative pregnant” statement as a denial of wrongdoing done by denying only an aspect of the allegation, but not the allegation itself.
Cayetano issued an invalid denial. As explained in the previous sections:
  • The primary criticism against the extra P1.6-B budget is its apparent lack of necessity.
  • The secondary criticism is that it will be used to fund new positions, especially the 8 new deputy speakerships.
Hence, a valid denial must:
  • Decisively show that the P1.6-B is necessary to further PUBLIC AND NOT PERSONAL INTERESTS.
  • That the amounts allocated for the new positions are reasonable in light of the fact that other government spending priorities (education, healthcare, etc) could have gotten the funding instead.
But instead of addressing the issue head-on, Speaker Cayetano tried to weasel his way out by misrepresenting the criticism and rebutting the same misrepresentation.
Cayetano said P200-million-for-each-deputy is incorrect, but he didn’t say exactly how much will go to them. If each new deputy gets only 199 million, then 200 million is indeed incorrect, right?

But would that make everything fine? Hell no. 


To be fair to Cayetano, he attempted to expound on the budget issue as seen in other news reports later that day. The problem, however, is he still dodged the core questions.

In an UNTV report, Cayetano said that of the P1.6-B additional budget, “the big chunk” is “for various projects” while “only a little portion” is for deputy speakers.

Cayetano didn’t define what “big” and “little” means. So how much, exactly?

Lawyers like Speaker Cayetano are trained to be instinctively precise with their wording, so his resorting to such ambiguous terms is surprising, to say the least.

This is P1.6-B of public money we’re talking about, and the best adjectives he can come up with is “big” and “little”?

How much, Speaker Cayetano, EXACTLY how much? You love quoting the Bible but you can't even quote official congressional records that are already at your fingertips?
In another report from the Inquirer, Cayetano said:
“So, what’s one-billion na idadagdag mo sa (that will be added to) Congress to make sure that the 4.1-trillion is spent very well?”
But this statement merely complicates Cayetano’s predicament. 

Cayetano has not even sufficiently explained the necessity behind the augmentation yet here he is weaseling his way out of the issue.

Speaker Cayetano, you spent an entire day yesterday just to talk, yet you didn’t even find time to publish the itemized breakdown of the extra P1.6 billion you’re asking for.

Legislators like you are so anal-retentive and obsessive-compulsive when scrutinizing the budget of the executive and judiciary, yet when it comes to defending your own budget,“big chunk” and “little portion” are good enough for you?
What’s one billion, you ask?
One billion... No... One-point-six billion pesos can save and improve a “big” number of “little” Filipino lives.
Classrooms. Public School Teachers. Government Doctors. Public Nurses. Reformation of Youth Offenders. Agricultural Subsidies. Drug Rehabilitation Centers. Supplies for the Police and Military. Public Information Systems. Airports. Roads. Bridges. Coast Guard Vesels to patrol the South China Sea. The list goes on and on.
Mr. Speaker, there are so many ways to spend the "big" Php 1.6 billion to directly benefit "little" Filipinos.
Seriously, Speaker Cayetano, what have the Filipino People done to deserve you? [ThinkingPinoy | RJ Nieto]


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