House subpoenas Budget chief

Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has signed the subpoena against embattled Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to compel his presence in today’s continuation of the House committee on appropriations’ hearing in connection with alleged irregularities in the preparation of this year’s budget involving him.

“Failure to comply with this order is subject to penalty under the law,” says the subpoena signed by Arroyo and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., who heads the panel.

Andaya on Thursday slammed Diokno for saying the unspent appropriations for 2017 had been returned to the Bureau of the Treasury. 

Andaya on Tuesday claimed the unspent funds were “pork.”

The P370 billion saved by the Duterte administration in 2017 should have been spent on projects and public services instead of being sent back to the Treasury, Andaya said.

Arroyo and Andaya also signed subpoenas for Diokno to bring the records of savings and utilization for 2017 and 2018.

The Andaya panel last Wednesday was prompted to approve the motion to issue a subpoena against Diokno as raised by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, a former Court of Appeals justice after Diokno failed to attend Wednesday’s hearing for the fifth time.

This developed as Andaya welcomed what he described as Diokno’s confession on “what I have saying all along, that government has hundreds of billion of pesos in savings from unexpended appropriations in the past two years.”

But instead of explaining how those savings were being spent, Andaya said Diokno had resorted once again to general statements and technical gobbledygook.

“When he claimed that the P370 billion savings from 2017 reverted to the Treasury, does he mean that these unexpended appropriations are still unspent and remain stagnant to this day? Of course not!” Andaya said 

“We do not keep public funds in the treasury for savings or time deposit. We spend them for programs and projects the following year. Appropriations have a minimum shelf life of two years.”

Andaya also asked how the 2017 savings were spent in 2018 remained unanswered.

“If there is no such thing as DBM pork, why can’t Secretary Diokno show the savings of 2017 and 2018?” Andaya said. 

“He has the guts to deny before the media that these savings are being disbursed by DBM, yet he cowers in fear at the thought of being asked about it in Congress. Five times we invited him to explain in Congress. Five times, he has chickened out.

“The fact remains there was P370 billion savings in 2017. There is a much bigger amount of savings in 2018. The DBM Secretary has the sole power to disburse them for government programs and projects. This savings-for-pork conversion must be stopped.”

Topics: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo , Benjamin Diokno , Rolando Andaya Jr. , Bureau of the Treasury
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