Despite the controversy and the bitter word war between the two, the huge amount remained in the outlay – but no longer as an insertion supposedly made by the budget secretary and over which he would supposedly have discretion.
Edd Gumban/File
P75 billion Diokno ‘insertion’ ends up as lawmakers’ ‘pork barrel’
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - February 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — They quarreled over P75 billion in infrastructure funds in the proposed 2019 national budget, with Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno calling it a “budgetary adjustment” and his congressman-tormentor, Rolando Andaya Jr. of Camarines Sur, labeling it as Diokno’s “pork.”

Despite the controversy and the bitter word war between the two, the huge amount remained in the outlay – but no longer as an insertion supposedly made by the budget secretary and over which he would supposedly have discretion.

The appropriation ended up with senators and members of the House of Representatives sharing it, though not equitably, as some congressmen complained.

The House and the Senate have realigned the whole amount, according to Andaya.

Testimonies given to the House showed that the P75 billion was an eleventh hour addition the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) made in this year’s funding for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) before President Duterte presented his 2019 budget proposal to Congress in July 2018.

Based on a matrix of realignments the two chambers have made in Duterte’s proposal, the House added P20.6 billion to the DPWH budget, the Senate increased it further by P25.4 billion and the bicameral conference committee padded it by an additional P274 million, for a total of P46.4 billion.

Those increases represent pork barrel funds and came from what Andaya calls Diokno’s P75-billion insertion. The balance of nearly P30 billion was distributed among other agencies used as conduits of pork barrel funds.

If P25.4 billion were divided equally among 23 senators, each would have P1.1 billion. However, anti-pork Sen. Panfilo Lacson and some colleagues are not partaking of what he calls the “pizza pie.” He and the minority group of Sen. Franklin Drilon voted against the approval of the budget.

Some senators have reportedly allocated hundreds of millions to their home provinces and local government units where they or their relatives are candidates in the May elections.

Andaya, appropriations committee chairman, chaired the bicameral conference on the budget jointly with his Senate counterpart Loren Legarda. It was the Camarines Sur lawmaker himself who released the matrix to the media in the spirit of transparency.

“We remain true to our commitment of transparency and accountability. We will furnish media again with details of each district allocation once it is ready for final printing,” he said.

He and Lacson have repeatedly urged all senators to likewise be transparent with their insertions. Their appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

Andaya claimed that DPWH projects funded by the P75-billion addition to the agency’s budget had been bid out before 2018 ended under an early procurement circular issued by the DBM.

What remained to be done was the awarding of the contract to the supposedly winning contractors, and this was to be made once the President signs the proposed budget – that is, if the original projects are still there.

But they are no longer in the Congress version of the outlay, since the two chambers have realigned the whole amount, Andaya said.

He said contractors who have advanced the commissions of lawmakers and officials behind the projects are now demanding refunds.

One unnamed official returned P200 million to a group of Mindanao-based contractors “for fear of his life,” he said.

He added that Diokno, lawmakers and incumbent and former national and local officials who proposed the projects would now have to appease the grumbling contractors.   

2019 BUDGET BENJAMIN DIOKNO PORK BARREL ROLANDO ANDAYA JR.
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