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)