A party-list lawmaker has challenged Senator Panfilo Lacson to explain the P190-billion insertion of the Senate
in the proposed 2019 national budget.
READ: Lacson details ‘insertions’, rules out horse trading
COOP NATCCO Rep. Anthony Bravo made the statement Friday in light of allegations made by Lacson
that each member of the House of Representatives has P160 million in supposed pork barrel funds in the proposed budget.
Bravo, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said all entries submitted by the House in the proposed 2019 budget are itemized.
However, the Senate’s version, Bravo pointed out, contain insertions amounting to P190 billion
, which may be considered a lump sum because the Senate has yet to submit the itemized list where the money would be going.
This developed as Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House appropriations committee, said more than P50 billion in unused public funds were transferred to “two little known” government offices, where they have remained unused for one to five years.
Citing a Commission on Audit report, Andaya said P4.6 billion in unused funds came from the budget of the Philippine National Police, while P2.4 billion was transferred from the Department of Education.
READ: House, Senate agree to break budget impasse
These and at least P17 billion more were transferred by other departments to the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service, where they remain idle and unaudited as of December 2018, Andaya said.Another P31.6 billion has been lying idle for years in the Philippine International Trading Corp., an attached office of Department of Trade and Industry, also from the transfer of funds from other departments and agencies, Andaya added.
“While the police and the Education department were deprived of certain things they need, it turned out that P50 billion were lying idle at the DBM-PS [and the PITC],” Andaya said.
Meanwhile, Bravo said: “From the very start, the House conferees have been badgering the senators to submit to the bicam [bicameral conference committee] and to the public their list of amendments to the 2019 budget, so that the public may know that we are not hiding any ‘pork’ in the bicam.
“Despite our insistence, the senators refused to submit the list of their individual amendments to the budget,” the party-list solon added.
Andaya said Joey Bernardino, the COA team leader tasked to audit the DBM-PS, said in a panel hearing that the biggest contributors to the idle inter-agency fund transfers of DBM-PS were the national government agencies (P16.6 billion), followed by government-owned-and-controlled corporations (P426.5 million), and local government units (P49.8 million).
“What is significant in the IATFs of DBM-PS, according to Mr. Bernardino, is the number of years that the funds remain unused. He disclosed that P1.5 billion remain unused for more than five years; P2.6 billion for four to five years; P3.5 billion for three to four years; P4.7 billion for two to three years; P2.6 billion for one to two years; and P1.1 billion for one year and below,” Andaya said.
Andaya blamed the transfer of funds on Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, who revised the implementing rules and regulations of the Government Procurement Reform Act that allegedly transformed the DBM into a “super-bidding body.”
“An estimated P50 billion in public funds has accumulated in two little-known government offices and remain unused for one to five years, thanks to revisions inserted by DBM Secretary Benjamin Diokno in the implementing rules for procurement,” said Andaya.
READ: Sick and tired of ’insertions,’ Sotto changes budget tune
Diokno has denied all allegations leveled against him.
Meanwhile, amid talks to break the budget impasse between the House and the Senate,
Lacson said passage of the P3.757 trillion 2019 spending plan cannot be “business as usual.”
“P160 million per congressman is simply too much and unacceptable,” Lacson said, referring to the allocations for projects in the spending bill approved by the House.
Multiplied by 300 congressmen, Lacson said that’s easily P48 billion, which even does not count their members “who are getting billions more.”
The members of the bicameral conference committee on the 2019 national budget were able to break a budget impasse during their meeting at the Manila Polo Club Wednesday night.
Lacson also divulged yesterday that one or more senators had made P3.3 billion budget “insertions” for one province alone. He said the amount was part of the P23 billion that he said some senators have inserted into the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
“The biggest is P3.3 billion,” said Lacson. He said this may involve more than one senator but are lumped in just one province, without naming it.
He said these projects include flood control structures, national and local roads, water management, multi-purpose facilities, bridges, feasibility studies, and road right-of-way.
He said these insertions appeared in the Senate version of the national budget, so it is easy to conclude they were made by at least one senator.
In a Twitter post, Lacson said the insertions were “too much.”
“I may be outvoted eventually but I’m willing to go down fighting, confident that some like-minded colleagues will do the same,” he added.
Lacson said he along with the other members of the Senate panel in the bicameral conference committee will await the report of their chairman.
Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said he hopes the bicameral conference committee will have a compromise version of the budget ready for ratification next week.
Also on Friday, Senator Nancy Binay urged the DBM to give priority to the release of the fourth tranche of salary increases for government employees scheduled for 2019.
The senator made this statement after Senate finance committee chairperson Loren Legarda said that the salary hike for government workers this year can be taken from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund. With PNA