Ombudsman dragged into budget fray

House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. on Wednesday pressed his attack on Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, claiming that field investigators from the Office of the Ombudsman wanted to start their own probe into allegedly anomalous flood control projects in the 2019 national budget.

“Some of these investigators have already made contact with the House rules committee. They are requesting for copies of testimonial and documentary evidence, which our committee generated during a public hearing. Apparently, the Office of the Ombudsman has noticed red flags of corruption on the evidence presented and on the testimonies made during the hearing,” Andaya said.

But Ombudsman Samuel Martires would neither confirm nor deny Andaya’s claim, adding that investigations by his office must be considered highly confidential in nature.

He said access to cases pending before the Ombudsman must be limited to avoid “prosecution by publicity.”

Andaya, on the other hand, said his panel would cooperate with the Ombudsman.

“We will provide them with all the documents requested. The evidence that keeps on piling up with the rules committee are all public record. The testimonies of our resource persons were made under oath in a public hearing,” said Andaya, chairman of the House rules committee.

The House rules committee has been investigating alleged irregularities in the preparation of the national government budget.

At the same time, Andaya pressed the Department of Budget and Management to release the pay increase of government personnel in time for the Jan. 15 payroll.

“Civil servants deserve the salary increase due them this year. Pay them now, not later. The Filipino people need every centavo what ever is due them by the government,” Andaya said.

Diokno has said that paying the increase would be unconstitutional if the 2019 national budget has not been passed.

In a related development, House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said the alleged irregularities in the budget preparation could be bigger than the pork barrel scam in terms of corruption.

Suarez also suggested the House subpoena Diokno to compel his attendance at committee hearings.

Andaya earlier said the House would not bother to issue a subpoena to Diokno.

At a press conference, Suarez said the pork barrel cam would look like “petty cash” compared to the alleged flood control scam.

House senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Hayaang Yumabong Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza also questioned the sudden huge allocations by Diokno for flood control projects.

“What are the priorities of Secretary Diokno? Why all of a sudden are there a lot of flood control projects?” Atienza said.

Diokno earlier denied any irregularities in the allocation of funds in the national budget.

“The DBM believes that citing these amounts to present a picture of a ‘flood control scam’ facilitated by the DBM is irresponsible and misleading,” the DBM said in a statement. “The amount representing the proposed allocation for FY 2019 cannot be accounted for yet.”

Andaya earlier said Diokno allegedly inserted billions of pesos in public funds for the flood control projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways without the knowledge of Secretary Mark Villar.

READ: Congress warned budget's overdue

Topics: Rolando Andaya Jr. , Benjamin Diokno , Office of the Ombudsman , Samuel Martires
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