By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said the P84 billion worth of congressional realignments that were withheld by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) were not going to be released unless it was really necessary.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that at least P80 billion in congressional realignments have been withheld by President Duterte and the DBM after it was reported that some lawmakers tried to realign them from the Build, Build, Build program to their districts’ “pet projects” under the P4.1 trillion 2020 national budget.
Lacson added that Duterte decided to block the release of the budget by way of a DBM circular called “for later release,” instead of exercising his veto power, since it could stall the approval of the budget.
In his Thursday press briefing, Panelo, citing Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, said the withheld fund will have to undergo a process before it gets released.
“He (Avisado) said that the P84 billion will not be released immediately, but depending on the need for the release thereof. In other words, there will be a process,” he said. “I don’t know what they have to go through but there is a protocol for that. So they will have to pass through that.”
Panelo likewise said the DBM saw no irregularity with the fund but opted to withhold it because it may come in handy in the future.
“Kung may nakita siya na irregularity, hindi niya na pinapasok sa budget. Kaya lang, ang sinasabi niya, kung kailangan ‘yun (If there was any irregularity, then Secretary Avisado would not have included it in the budget. However, what he’s saying is, if it’s needed), if there is a need for that, then we have to include it in the budget,” Panelo said.
“Kasi kung hindi mo naman daw isasama yung P84 billion, eh kailangan pala? Saan ka kukuha, wala sa budget? Mas lalong may problema (Because if you didn’t include the P84 billion, what if you needed it? Where will you get it, if it’s not in the budget? There would be a bigger problem).”
President Duterte signed the 2020 national budget on the first week of January this year. According to the DBM, the social services sector accounts for the largest bulk of the budget at P1.495 trillion.
READ MORE: Duterte to sign P4.1-T 2020 budget on Jan. 6