By Ben Rosario
Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar’s recent revelation on the questioned P75 billion insertion to the proposed 2019 national budget has made Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s presence in a congressional hearing necessary, if not mandatory.
This, after Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. sent Diokno another invitation, his third, to show up as resource person for the next congressional hearing on questionable allocations and anomalous budget practices allegedly committed by the Department of Budget and Management.
Requesting anonymity, a senior member of the House minority bloc vowed to push for the issuance of subpoena on Diokno should he again fail to show up on Tuesday.
Non-compliance to a congressional subpoena may trigger a citation for contempt on the Cabinet official.
Andaya said Diokno’s presence has become vital in the on-going congressional inquiry in the light of Villar’s confirmation “on record” that he was not informed by Diokno about the P75 billion insertion in the P3.757 budget proposal.
During a multi-media forum, Villar disclosed that Diokno did not notify the DPWH about the P75 billion added to the proposed 2019 budget of the DPWH before it was submitted to the House of Representatives.
The DPWH chief said that he only came to know about the extra funding when the DBM released the National Expenditure Program which President Duterte submitted to the House of Representatives in July 2018.
“Also last week, we got hold of a copy of Sec. Diokno’s letter to Sec. Villar dated June 14, 2018, informing him about the decision of DBM to cut the DPWH’s proposed budget for 2019 from P652 million to P480 million,” said Andaya.
IN the letter, Diokno told Villar that the P480 reduction was the “final budget level to be submitted for congressional review.”
“With these twin developments, it is time for Sec. Diokno to explain fully his role in the conspiracy that stalled the congressional deliberations of the 2019 budget,” said Andaya.
Diokno has been insisting that Villar knew about the P75 billion for various infrastructure projects that the DBM inserted in the DPWH budget for 2019.
Congressmen remained unconvinced with Diokno’s claim as they noted that P51 billion of the total P75 billion were previously discovered “concealed” in the budget allocation for infrastructure projects in various congressional districts.
A number of congressmen in congressional districts that benefited from the alleged “insertion” claimed they are not aware of the budget bonanza and were not the proponents of the supposed priority projects to be funded.
Convinced that the P51 billion allocations was the fruit of a serious budgeting irregularity, the Lower House decided to re-allocate the amount to vital health and social reform programs that suffered huge budget slashes under the original DBM-prepared national budget proposal.