By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations said yesterday he would question before the Supreme Court the possible restoration of the P75-billion insertions in the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget via a veto message, citing that it will be a “clear mockery of the power of Congress to scrutinize the budget.”
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr. said he will be joining Senators Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Frank Drilon in questioning the restoration of the “P75-billion gaffe” if embattled Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, former chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, succeed in restoring such insertions.
“In case the two Cabinet members succeed in this evil scheme of vetoing the 2019 GAB to restore the P75-billion insertion, I will join Sen. Lacson and Sen. Drilon in questioning the veto message before the Supreme Court,” Andaya said.
The former Budget secretary issued a statement, as the national spending bill is being readied for President Duterte’s signature. Congress ratified the 2019 GAB on Friday night.
Andaya stressed that it was Congress’ job to scrutinize the National Expenditure Program (NEP) as part of its budget authorization function.
“Now that Congress has fulfilled its job in correcting the P75-billion gaffe, Sec. Diokno and Sec. Nograles are back in the drawing board to restore it in the 2019 GAA via a veto message. This is clear mockery of the power of Congress to scrutinize the budget,” he said.
He clarified that President Duterte has nothing to do with the P75-billion insertions that were scrapped by the bicameral conference committee.
“I do not know where Sec. Diokno gets the gall to call the 2019 NEP, with DBM’s P75-billion insertion, as the President’s Budget. The President is not part of the conspiracy between the DBM and the previous House leadership,” Andaya said.
“It will be a great disservice and disloyalty for few Cabinet members to drag the President into this mess,” he added.
Andaya agreed with Lacson that the P75-billion insertion in the NEP was “a conspiracy between the DBM and the previous House leadership.”
“I find it interesting how the DBM can maneuver to restore its P75-billion insertion in the final print of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill, which has already been approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives,” he said.
He warned Nograles against moving to restore the insertions, saying that it would backfire on him being the previous chairman of House Committee on Appropriations.
“My unsolicited advice to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the new spokesperson of DBM Sec. Ben Diokno: be careful with the crafting of the veto message for it will just lead back to where it all started. The public never forgets that you were part of the previous House leadership as chairman of the Appropriations Committee,” Andaya said.
He said both the Senate and House have realigned the P75-billion DBM insertion.
“We knew that the funding source for the insertion was clearly pork. The infrastructure projects inserted by the DBM at 4 a.m. of July 22, 2018, were not vetted by the DPWH,” he said.
In a radio interview, Andaya said as each congressman gets P160-million projects from Diokno’s insertions at the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), senators also got their share.
“Liwanagin ko lang na hindi lang [House] panel ang tumapyas doon. Pati’yung Senado. Kasama sila sa pagtapyas ng pondo,” he said.
“Totoo ‘yan, dahil ‘yun ang napag-usapan ng buong kapulungan na walang maze-zero ngayon,” Andaya said.
He said the funds shall be distributed equally among the lawmakers compared to previous leadership wherein some lawmakers got zero allocation because of their political affiliations.
“Noong nakaraan, may mga distrito na base sa pagboto ng mambabatas, kung pumabor o hindi pumabor sa isang panukala, ay nabigyan ng zero, at tiniis ‘yun ng distrito sa isang taon. Ngayon naman, gusto naming pantay-pantay ang pagbigay sa lahat,” he said.