Diokno on 2019 budget woes: ‘No insertions but part of the process’

Marje Pelayo   •   December 12, 2018   •   3662

 

House Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. (left) accuses an Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno (right) of inserting unapproved billions of pesos into the proposed 2019 national budget.

 

QUEZON CITY, Philippines –House Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Tuesday (December 11) engaged in a heated argument over alleged insertions in the proposed 2019 national budget.

During the question hour, Andaya alleged that Diokno orchestrated the insertion of some billions of pesos into the national budget without the knowledge of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In particular, Andaya noted the huge amount inserted in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) worth P51-B for infrastructure projects, also without the knowledge of Secretary Mark Villar.

“He asked for 480, you gave him a ceiling of 480, and lo and behold, there was an insertion of 50 billion which no one now claims. So what is this 51 billion insertion of yours all about?” Andaya asked Diokno.

Andaya claimed to have spoken with the President and Villar on the matter but both officials purportedly said they had no idea about it.

But Budget Secretary Diokno maintained there were no irregularities in the proposed national budget and the issues Andaya was raising were actually part of the process in budget preparations.

Diokno said the DBM only added an amount to the initially approved budget of DPWH which was P480.2B since the agency requested a much higher amount of P652-B.

“We want the infrastructure budget to be higher and we have fiscal space. We decided to augment or to add to the 480, 75 billion, not 51 billion…You cannot call that insertion because it’s part of the budget preparation process. There’s no insertion,” Diokno said.

Meanwhile, Buhay Party list Representative Lito Atienza asked Diokno to answer the allegations of Senator Panfilo Lacson on the alleged pork barrel of some congressmen particularly in the districts of House Speaker Gloria Arroyo and Andaya.

“Hindi po gumagawa ng ilegal itong kongreso na ito, tama po ba yun?” asked Atienza.

“Tama po iyon,” Diokno said.

“I accept his admission (that) this Congress has not committed any pork barrel violation. Therefore, Sen. Panfilo Lacson is way off  the mark and the allegations in media are not true,” Atienza concluded.

In the end, Diokno insisted that President Duterte is aware of the additional infrastructure budget.

He also denied any conflict of interests in the performance of his duty as Budget Secretary.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez accused Diokno of influencing the approval of about P2.8 billion worth of infra projects in Casiguran and Sorsogon for the reason that Diokno’s daughter is an in-law of Sorsogon Vice Governor Ester Hamor and Casiguran Mayor Edwin Hamor.

“Let me tell you, your honor. I’ve served three presidents. I am known for my integrity. I have no relatives, no friends, as far as public affairs are concerned. That’s my reputation. That’s why they call me ‘Dr. No.’ So I don’t know what your questions are all about,” Diokno told Suarez. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Grace Casin)

Duterte signs extension of validity of 2019 budget to December next year

Marje Pelayo   •   December 26, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte officially signed last week the measure extending the validity of the 2019 National Budget until December 31, 2020.

Signed on December 20, the new Republic Act 11464 which amended Section 25 of the 2019 General Appropriations Act states that: “All appropriations authorized in this Act shall be available for release and obligation for the purpose specified, and under the same special provision applicable thereto, until December 31, 2020.”

The new measure will allow government agencies to spend this year’s fund, particularly for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) until the end of next year.

The measure is to address the government’s need for budget after the delay in the passage of the 2020 National Budget and the implementation of the midterm election ban on infrastructure projects.

The MOOE covers the budget for daily operations of government units.

The President already certified as urgent the passing of the 2020 National Budget.

It is expected to be signed in January next year. MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Lacson says proposed 2020 budget still tainted with pork barrel

Robie de Guzman   •   December 11, 2019

Senator Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said the proposed 2020 national budget signed by the congressional bicameral conference committee is still tainted with pork barrel.

In a statement, Lacson noted that “bad habits are indeed hard to break,” as he revealed some of the budget insertions allegedly made by the House of Representatives before the bicameral conference committee approved the report on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.

“It is revolting to note that legislators keep on dipping their dirty fingers on our national budget in spite of pending cases involving the same issue,” he said.

The senator said he did not attend the signing of the report on the budget bill which was held during a meeting at a hotel in Makati City.

He mentioned that one reason why he skipped the meeting was because his office received a USB containing two files – the “Source” file and the “List” file – from the Lower House on Tuesday night.

“Our preliminary scrutiny of the last-minute insertions made by the House would indicate that the Source File is the list of 1,253 budget items worth P83.219B that was apparently used as the congressmen’s ‘source’ of their ‘list’ of 742 projects worth P16.345B that were inserted in the bicam report that was signed by both panels this morning,” he said.

“Since there is no preliminary explanation from the House regarding the two files, we cannot ascertain if indeed only P16.345B or the bigger amount of P83.219B was inserted at the last minute prior to the bicam signing,” he added.

He continued with: “What is clear, though, is that there are still lump sums and vaguely described projects that are now part of the bicam report.”

Lacson said that their initial check of the files showed that the top provinces with huge allocations include:

  • Albay – P670M
  • Cavite – P580M
  • Sorsogon – P570M
  • Batangas – P502M
  • Bulacan – P440M
  • Pangasinan – P420M
  • Cebu – P410M

He also claimed that 117 flood control projects worth P3.179-billion dominated the insertions, “with eight projects uniformly budgeted at P60 million each.”

“There are more corruption-driven insertions in the Files sent to us that I have not mentioned. Thus, we will continue to diligently scrutinize it and inform the DBM and the Office of the President as I have high hopes that President Rodrigo Duterte will again display his aversion to corruption,” he added.

“Pork is here to stay. I hope the President will again exercise his political will in vetoing line items that will obviously waste people’s tax money,” he further stated.

Senate OKs bill extending validity of 2019 budget

Robie de Guzman   •   November 26, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Tuesday approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to extend the validity of the 2019 national budget until next year.

Nineteen of the senators present in the hearing voted to approve House Bill No. 5437 which would allow agencies to spend until December 2020 the funds for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlays in the 2019 national budget.

The bill amends Section 65 of Republic Act 11260 or the 2019 General Appropriations Act.

Senator Sonny Angara, chairman of the Finance committee, said the measure’s approval will greatly help all government agencies involved in relief efforts such as the recent series of earthquakes in Mindanao.

He added that the bill will also ensure the availability of over P12 billion from the Calamity Fund and other quick response funds lodged with various agencies.

“Through this measure, we would be extending a big helping hand to the Executive Branch which has had to operate during the first few months of this year on a re-enacted budget and the rest under pressure to spend up to P3.687 trillion of total available appropriations in a span of seven to eight months approximately amidst the election ban on government projects this year,” Angara said in a statement.

“We do this because under RA 11260 or the 2019 GAA and Executive Order No. 91 on the implementation of a cash-budgeting system, all appropriations that were not released, obligated or paid by the Dec. 31, 2019 shall lapse and revert to the national treasury,” he added.

It can be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte signed in April the P3.7-trillion national budget with vetoed provisions following alleged insertions in the bill, which led to its impasse and forced the government to operate on a reenacted 2018 budget.

“The Senate is not oblivious to the travails of the Executive Branch and we must help them. We must see to it that the national budget we approved for 2019 would benefit our people in terms of better services and more efficient public spending,” said Angara.

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