VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Salo’s unproven claim on SEAG budget ‘transferred to Iloilo’

Read this fact check in Filipino

KABAYAN party list Rep. Ron Salo’s pronouncement in November that part of the P2.5 billion slashed from the budget of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) hosting was moved to fund infrastructure projects in “Iloilo” is unproven.

The Ombudsman is currently investigating the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) chaired by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. Several senators in December have also called for a probe into the “excesses” and “possible corruption” behind the country’s hosting of the biennial sports tournament.

STATEMENT

In a privilege speech during the Nov. 27 plenary session of the House of Representatives, Salo commended Phisgoc, saying “despite the budget delay and even with the slashing (of) the SEA Games budget by Senator Drilon amounting to 2.5 billion pesos,” was set to showcase the Filipino “culture and talents.” He then added:

"Curiously, however, simultaneous with the 2.5 billion slash in the SEA Games budget, is the increase in the budget for various infrastructure projects in Iloilo by 2.3 billion pesos."

Source: House of Representatives, 18th CONGRESS 1st REGULAR SESSION #32, Nov. 27, 2019, watch from 46:19 to 46:58

The powerpoint presentation aiding Salo’s speech also displayed the text:

“Is it coincidence? Php 2.3B Nilipat sa Iloilo (Transferred to Iloilo)”

Source: House of Representatives, 18th CONGRESS 1st REGULAR SESSION #32, Nov. 27, 2019, watch at 46:49

“Iloilo” is Sen. Franklin Drilon’s bailiwick. The senator had previously questioned the release of P700 million to Phisgoc, a private foundation, before the start of the SEA Games.

FACT

Salo’s claim remains unproven.

It is unclear whether the party list representative was referring to Iloilo the city or the province in his speech.

One of the sources of a local government unit’s (LGU) budget is the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). It is part of the national internal revenue released directly to LGUs as an “automatic appropriation.” This means the IRA “need not pass through congressional approval before it is released to LGUs.”

More, budget allocations for each locality are determined and enacted by their respective city and provincial councils.

Data from both Iloilo City and Iloilo Province show their infrastructure budgets in 2019 did not even reach one billion pesos.

Iloilo City’s allocation for various infrastructure projects in 2019 amounts to P 141.1 million. This does not include projects funded by the national government through the Department of Public Works & Highways (DPWH) and other agencies.

The city’s overall annual budget for 2019 is P 2.3 billion.

Meanwhile, the Province of Iloilo’s budget for infrastructure rose to P516.4 million this year. The province’s total 2019 budget is at P4.1 billion.


Some of the high-profile infrastructure projects in the province and city of Iloilo are funded through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Transportation (DOTr).

The Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridge Program, which would traverse through a part of Iloilo Province, is an ongoing P97.3 billion flagship project of the DPWH financed through Official Development Assistance (ODA), a loan and/or a grant given by foreign governments to the Philippines.

Another project under the DPWH is the ongoing construction of a drainage system in some parts of Iloilo City. It has a budget allocation of P190 million.

The expansion of the Iloilo International Airport worth P30.4 billion, is spearheaded by the DOTr and is expected to be finished by December 2021.

BACKSTORY

During the December 2018 Senate session on the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for the 2019 National Budget, Drilon questioned why the P7.5 billion budget for the SEAG was lodged with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), where chair of SEAG organizing committee Alan Peter Cayetano was former secretary, and not with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

He then suggested for the allocation be moved to the PSC, to which Committee on Finance Chairperson Sen. Loren Legarda agreed.

However, in the bicameral report on the GAB presented by Legarda on the Feb. 8 Senate session, the transferred budget from the DFA to PSC amounted to only P 5 billion. It was not included in her report where the remaining P2.5 billion supposed budget for the SEAG went.

The bicameral committee, which ultimately approved the GAB, is composed of representatives from both the House and the Senate.

Drilon, in a Nov. 27 press release, belied Salo’s statement, clarifying that the bicameral committee, and not he, reduced the SEAG budget from P7.5 billion to P5 billion.

The Ilonggo Senate Minority Floor Leader is known for pushing various infrastructure projects for Iloilo. He was honored in August for his contribution to the economic development of the province.

The senator has also been previously accused of corruption over infrastructure projects in Iloilo. In 2014, Iloilo-based journalist and columnist Manuel Mejorada filed plunder charges against Drilon over the allegedly overpriced Iloilo Convention Center. In 2017, Mejorada was found guilty of four counts of libel and was charged of up to four years and two months of imprisonment.

Misleading content sprouted online after Salo’s insinuation. Youtube channel Usapang Balita TV uploaded Nov. 27 a video entitled “Sea games budget kinaltasan ng 2.5B ng Senado napunta sa Bayan ni Drilon sa iloilo ang 2.3B (SEA Games budget reduced to 2.5B by the Senate, 2.3B went to Drilon’s province in Iloilo).” It featured part of Salo’s speech, as well as a commentary calling out Drilon.

It was viewed more than 20,000 times, and could have reached over 200,000 social media users. Public Facebook groups Tulfo Brothers Worldwide and DUTERTE MARCOS SUPPORTERS generated most of its traffic.


Sources

Senate of the Philippines, Senate Resolution No. 274, Dec. 16, 2019

House of Representatives, 18th CONGRESS 1st REGULAR SESSION #32, Nov. 27, 2019

The Official Gazette, Republic Act No. 9358, Oct. 17, 2006

Department of Budget and Management, Budget Operations Manual for Local Government Units, 2016

The Official Gazette, Republic Act No. 7160, Oct. 10, 1991

Iloilo City Government, 20 percent Infrastructure Budget for years 2018 and 2019, received Dec. 16, 2019

Province of Iloilo, Breakdown of 2018 Budget for Infrastructure, received Dec. 10, 2016

Province of Iloilo, Breakdown of 2019 Budget for Infrastructure, received Dec. 10, 2016

Province of Iloilo, Total Budget for years 2018 and 2019, received Dec. 10, 2016

National Economic and Development Authority, Infrastructure Flagship Projects Matrix 2019, July 2019

Environmental Management Bureau, Feasibility Study of Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges Project, August 2019

National Economic and Development Authority, Official Development Assistance, n.d.

National Economic and Development Authority, CY 2019 3rd Quarter RPMES Status Report, Sept. 30, 2019

Build Build Build, Iloilo Airport - Operations, Maintenance and Development Project, n.d.

Senate of the Philippines, Senate Journal Session No. 41, Dec. 4-7, 2018

Senate of the Philippines, Senate Journal Session No. 53, Feb. 8, 2019

Senate of the Philippines, Statement of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Rep. Ron Salo's statement, Nov. 27, 2019

GMA News, Drilon urges gov’t to start building Iloilo-Guimaras bridge, Aug. 21, 2019

Philippine Star, Drilon cited for contribution to Iloilo’s economy, Aug. 18, 2019

Manila Bulletin, Drilon feted by Ilonggo business leaders, Aug. 17, 2019

Philippine Star, Drilon faces plunder for 'overpriced' Iloilo Convention Center, Oct. 29, 2014

Rappler, Drilon, Cabinet secs face raps over 'overpriced' Iloilo building, Oct. 29, 2014

GMA News, Drilon faces raps over alleged overpriced Iloilo convention center, Oct. 29, 2014

Inquirer.net, Drilon critic sentenced to up to 4 years in prison for libel, Feb. 20, 2017

GMA News, Pasay court convicts Drilon critic for libel, Feb. 21, 2017

Aksyon Radyo Iloilo, Former Provincial Administrator kag journalist Manuel Mejorada, ginpamatbatan nga Guilty sa Libel Case nga ginfile ni Sen. Franklin Drilon, Feb. 21, 2017



(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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