By Ben Rosario
Calls for the resignation of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno is gathering steam in the House of Representatives whose leaders have aired support for the move.
Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. (PDP-Laban, Camarines Sur) disclosed that much of the contracts for the alleged “executive pork” amounting to P75 billion have apparently been bidded out long before Congress could pass the proposed 2019 national budget.
IN a press conference, Andaya said the Department of Budget Management has been enforcing a memorandum circular issued in 2010 that allows departments to conduct biddings for projects ahead of the budget approval.
“Kaya ayaw nila ipabago ang budget. Hindi pa nga naibibigay sa amin ang proposed budget, tapos na ang boksing,” Andaya said. (This is the reason why do not want the budget amended. The bidding has been completed even before the proposed budget could be submitted).
Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez revealed that the Question Hour report is expected to contain recommendation seeking Diokno’s resignation.
Suarez said Diokno has been blamed for messing up the proposed 2019 national budget that is full of “insertions” of funding allocations for infrastructure projects that did not pass through the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The veteran opposition lawmaker insisted that Diokno had a hand in the awarding of P3.5 billion contracts for flood control projects in congressional districts in Sorsogon and Catanduanes which are the least of areas that needed such infrastructure projects.
“What makes it more questionable is that the projects are worth roughtly P3.5 billion in total. In a province with 790 thousand population and 2,000 square kilometer area, this amount is incommensurate,” said Suarez.
“Kung ako si Diokno, magre-resign na ako,” he declared. (If I were Diokno, I will resign).
Suarez also disclosed that the Lower House will propose the re-alignment of P24 billion in public works projects not approved by the DPWH but nonetheless included in the proposed 2019 budget.
During the Question Hour, Diokno admitted that instead of P51 billion that congressmen claimed to be part of “parked pork barrel”, the DBM earmarked P75 billion for infrastructure projects that did not get DPWH recommendation.\
According to Suarez the House was able to re-align the P51 billion previously discovered by the Lower House leadership but the remaining P24 billion will still have to be located.
If found, the P24 billion will also have to be re-aligned.
Andaya said President Duterte is apparently unaware of the P75 billion that Diokno revealed. This indicated that the DBM had misled the chief executive about important details of the P3.575 trillion national budget.