By Ben Rosario
It’s not P51 billion, but a whopping P75 billion that the Department of Budget Management (DBM) allegedly “inserted” in the proposed 2019 national budget – a development the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is not aware of.
This information cropped up during the Question Hour of the House of Representatives that saw Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno getting pummelled over controversies related to the P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.
Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep.Rolando Andaya Jr. chided Diokno for allegedly stage-managing the insertion of P75 billion worth of public works projects in the proposed budget.
Congressmen managed to discover P51 billion in allocation that was divided in large parts and “parked” in congressional districts.
Based on Andaya’s claim, not only the DPWH and congressmen concerned are unaware of the existence of the so-called “parked pork barrel.” Even President Duterte does not know about it, Andaya said.
“It’s clear now that the insertion is not P51 billion, but P75 billion. Thanks so much for admitting that,” Andaya said.
Grilled by Andaya, Diokno admitted that the P652 billion budget requested by the DPWH for infrastructure projects was reduced to P480 billion.
“Because we want the infra budget to be higher and we have fiscal space, we decided to add to the P480 another P75 billion. For a total of P555,” Diokno explained.
Diokno’s explanation gave Andaya an opportunity to assail the budget appropriation scheme, saying the DBM chief admitted that P75 billion, instead of P51 billion was inserted in the budget.
“You cannot call that insertion because it’s part of the budget preparation process. That’s not insertion,” Diokno protested.
Andaya then dropped the bomb on Diokno when the House official stated that he had personally discussed the budget insertion with the President who said he is not aware of the additional P51 billion found by congressmen in the 2019 allocation.
“The President told me that he had nothing to do with it and that I should ask you,” Andaya declared.
Again, Diokno protested, saying the President was aware of the additional allocation.
“So he’s lying to me? He’s a liar?” Andaya asked Diokno.