By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives has decided to act pro-actively to avoid another budget controversy that pitted it against officials of the Senate and the executive department.
Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made the move after she called for an oversight meeting with officials of the Department of Budget and Management to get a firm knowledge on the ceiling each state agency will get as government finalizes the estimated P4.1 trillion budget proposal for 2020.
Arroyo personally made sure that the ruckus triggered by the discovery by congressmen of the P75 billion alleged “parked pork barrel” funds that caused the delayed passage of the 2019 national budget and the veto of some P93 billion in proposed allocations for congressional projects.
The Lower House ended up in defeat as the appropriations panel chaired by Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya took steps in dispersing the P75 billion in public works funds that was allegedly inserted by officials of the DBM and Management without the knowledge of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
President Duterte did not only reject the House proposal to re-allocate the P75 billion fund, he also vetoed an additional P18 billion that congressmen allegedly inserted in the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act.
To avoid a similar controversy from hounding the next Congress, Arroyo asked the DBM to submit to the House Oversight Committee on the 2020 budget the allocation ceilings for each government agency.
She underscored the significance of conducting the proceeding, saying that this is one way of preventing the controversy that was triggered by DBM’s failure to disclose a new budget cap for the DPWH in the 2019 budget study.
“The controversy of the 2019 budget began with the ceiling issue that’s why we need to know the ceiling now. As we understood as it was presented to us in July 2019, the DPWH had a ceiling of less than P500 million but when the GAA came, it was almost 600 million. That’s why we want to be clarified now. That’s something we want to avoid in this coming budget,” Speaker Arroyo said.
At Monday’s oversight meeting presided over by Malabon Rep. Federico Sandoval, DBM Asst. Secretary Rolando Toledo confirmed that the 2020 proposed budget will be P4.1 trillion, around 9.1 percent higher than the recently-signed 2019 budget.
Estimated budget at the end of Duterte’s term in 2022 has been pegged at P5.3 trillion.
During the oversight meeting held in Makati City, budget officials were grilled anew over the DBM’s decision to increase the DPWH budget by P75 billion for 2019.
Budget Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie Canda insisted that the spike in DPWH budget from P480 to P555 billion was a proposal made by Secretary Mark Villar. However, she later admitted that “not everything was put on paper.”
To avert a similar controversy from being repeated in the future, Arroyo said the DBM must from now on furnish Congress with the proposed budget ceilings for the incoming fiscal year.