2019 budget fate hinges on Diokno?

February 03, 2019
Benjamin Diokno

HOUSE members of the bicameral conference committee (bicam) yesterday demanded Budget Secretary Diokno disclose his department’s alleged billions of pesos in pork barrel funds under the 2018 P3.767-trillion national budget or the House panel would not approve the report of this year’s proposed P3.757-trillion national budget.

“The House conferees demand that DBM furnish us a report on total appropriations that have not been released and allotment issued that have not been obligated for year 2018,” said Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations and heads the House contingent in the bicam.

“Sec. Diokno may have evaded scrutiny of DBM pork in the 2018 budget deliberations. Not this time. No DBM report on 2018 savings, no bicam report for 2019 budget,” said Andaya.

“Matagal na naming hinihingi ito kay Sec. Diokno. This report is two years overdue. Kahit ‘yung report on 2017 savings, hindi pa rin naibibigay ni Sec. Diokno sa Congress hanggang ngayon. We are not talking of millions of pesos here. The total amount runs in billions of pesos. These are lump sum funds under the disposal of Sec. Diokno,” Andaya alleged.

“You want to look for pork? This is the multi-billion-peso DBM pork that Sec. Diokno has kept secret from Congress and from the public. Tanging si Sec. Diokno ang nakakaalam kung paano ito nagastos noong 2018 at kung paano ito gagastusin sa 2019,” said Andaya.

The Senate and House of Representatives Joint Resolution was signed by the President last December 28. It extends the availability of the 2018 appropriations for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) and Capital Outlays (CO) to December 31, 2019.

“The resolution, in effect, authorizes the disbursement of appropriations under the 2018 budget that have not been released and allotment issued that have not been obligated,” said Andaya.

“The unexpended appropriations would automatically revert to the unappropriated surplus of the General Fund to fund priority projects, aid and relief activities, as well as for the maintenance, construction, repair and rehabilitation of schools, hospitals, roads and other essential government facilities,” he added.

Diokno repeatedly denied all the allegations against him by Andaya.

Earlier, Andaya said the bicam agreed last Wednesday to set the cap of lawmakers’ realignments at P200 billion from initial P50 billion with an agreement to disclose their respective amendments.

Andaya is hoping to ratify the national budget this Wednesday before Congress adjourns this week to ensure enough funds for the conduct of the May 2019 midterm polls.

As of press time Sunday, Andaya said the bicam has been working to identify the source of the P200-billion realignments in the national budget and the beneficiaries of the adjustments.

Earlier, Andaya disclosed that the Senate made P190-billion insertions compared to the P51 billion of the House of Representatives.

On Saturday, House Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil “Fred” Castro said Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson who introduced P50-billion institutional amendments into the 2019 budget should account or itemize the so-called insertions.

But unlike the line item or itemized amendments of the members of the Lower House in the budget, Lacson has yet to give the specific details of where his P50 billion will go, making it like a lump sum appropriation or pork barrel.

"Nadiskubre po ng mga kasapi ng Mababang Kapulungan sa Bicameral Conference Committee na ito pong ating kaibigan na si Sen. Lacson ay may ipinasok na halagang P50 billion na ayon sa kaniya ay hindi pork barrel," he pointed out.