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Diokno pushes budget-line item veto despite Andaya’s vehement protest

President Rodrigo Duterte may yet veto line items in the 2019 national budget, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Monday.

In an interview with GMA News, Diokno said the Department of Budget and Management would prepare a statement of difference, indicating line-by-line differences between the budget originally proposed and the version ratified by Congress.

“If it’s an improvement over our proposal, we recommend [concurrence]...But if it’s worse than what we proposed, we might recommend a line-item veto,” he said.

After a one-month delay and debates over alleged pork insertions in the national spending plan, Congress ratified the P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.

On Monday, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, warned against a veto, saying Diokno was trying to manipulate the budget process to favor certain contractors in public works projects.

READ: Andaya turns the heat on Diokno in-laws

“This is the reason why I am making so much noise. The DBM secretary is the one tasked to craft the budget veto message for the President’s signature. I do not want the President to get bum advice from Dioknoand his fellow conspirators,” said Andaya, who was Budget chief under the Arroyo administration.

At the bicameral conference committee meeting last week, senators and congressmen agreed to remove and “realign” the P75 billion Diokno admitted having inserted in the Public Works budget without the knowledge of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.

Andaya said Diokno and his alleged fellow conspirators are under “intense pressure” to put back the realigned funds because the favored contractors had already handed out commissions ranging from 10 percent to 20 percent of the of the project cost.

“Contractors who paid commissions for the P75-billion infra projects inserted by the DBM in the National Expenditure Program are upset that their cash advances will be put to naught,” Andaya said.

Diokno, who has come under constant attack by Andaya, has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the budget process.

Also on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the billions in “pork insertions” in the 2019 budget can still be questioned before the Supreme Court.

Drilon, who voted against the budget bill, said anyone can raise the issue to the Supreme Court.

Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson, who also voted against the budget, urged the President to veto any line item that “looked and smelled like pork.”

While Lacson complained about the discretionary funds that remained, he said some progress had been made in removing pork, including the deletion of all appropriations for flood control, particularly dredging, desilting and the like; and realignment of these funds to capital outlays for the purchase of dredging machines.

He also cited the Senate-introduced Department of Health realignment, as well as the adoption of most of his institutional amendments, such as:

• The 240-day-a-year school feeding program for wasted and nearly wasted schoolchildren;

• Additional allowances for teachers;

• Some appropriations to cover laws passed regarding veterans;

• An augmentation budget requested by the judiciary; and

• Activation of an infantry unit to fight terrorist groups in Mindanao.

READ: Diokno accused of P40-billion bribe try

READ: 'Budget probe not over'

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , 2019 national budget , Benjamin Diokno , Department of Budget and Management
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