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House resumes oversight role

AFTER the House of Representatives was tagged as the House of Politics, the camp of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the House will resume exercising its true oversight function.

Deputy Speaker and BUhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said the lower chamber can now resume conducting congressional inquiries after Speaker Velasco fixed the “mess” left behind by his predecessor, Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano

Atienza called Cayetano and his six loyal allies “Ampalaya Boys” for allegedly being bitter over their lost of positions in the House.

Earlier the camp of Cayetano formed a new bloc called BTS or Back to Service/Balik ang Tamang Serbisyo, and called the House under the leadership of Velasco as the House of Politics.

According to Atienza, except for the investigation into the deadly Ulysses floods, no other significant probe was undertaken by the chamber since October because the Velasco leadership had to focus on the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to make sure the government has enough funds to buy COVID-19 vaccines and repair the socioeconomic damage caused by the pandemic.

“There were no investigations yet because we prioritized cleaning up the mess that was left in the GAB and reopened the budget hearings that Cayetano and his allies unceremoniously closed, which was why we uncovered the weakest link of the GAB—the pathetic P2.5 billion budget for COVID vaccines,” Atienza said.

After discovering the “measly” P2.5 billion the Cayetano regime allocated for COVID-19 vaccines, Atienza said the Velasco-led House increased it to P8 billion, and later to P72.5 billion.

President Duterte signed the 2021 GAB into law lon December 28.

Meanwhile, Atienza defended the decision of the present leadership to abolish the Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC) formed by Cayetano, calling the panel “purely a propaganda tool.”

Atienza explained that they abolished the DCC because it had unnecessary overlapping functions and assumes that the standing committees are ineffective.

Under the Velasco leadership, Atienza said congressional inquiries will proceed in due course and will not solely be limited to issues concerning big businesses.

“There are bigger societal problems beyond those relating to franchises, such as hunger, poverty, and lack of jobs,” Atienza said.

He said the oversight functions, most of which were unfunded by the previous leadership, “will finally be revived.”

“Oversight will not be confined to the Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability and Committee on Public Accounts as how it was, but will be in various committees as dictated by law,” Atienza pointed out.

The Committees on Good Governance and Public Accountability and on Public Accounts were previously headed by Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy Alvarado and Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor, respectively.

According to Atienza, the former chairmen of the two committees had to be replaced to revive proportional representation by political parties and marginalized sectors, and to “replace appointments based on favor and friendship.”