House to continue probe on budget ‘irregularities’
As the sitting Speaker of the House of Representatives, Davao del Norte First District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez also got the biggest pie among congressmen of funds for government projects under the annual budgets of 2017 and 2018. according to House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya on Wednesday in a late afternoon interview with DZMM.
Andaya has also said that Alvarez allocated for himself P5 Billion in the 2019 annual budget.
Congressmen are investigating the huge funds for Alvarez, who was was ousted in a coup in July and replaced by former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Andaya said the will continue its investigation to uncover deeper issues on the alleged insertions in the proposed 2019 national budget, as well as the irregularities in the current year’s appropriations.
Andaya made the statement after the chamber conducted a question hour with Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Tuesday night.
Andaya said one salient finding during the interpelation is Diokno’s admission that he inserted PHP75 billion worth of projects in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for next year.
Andaya noted that even DPWH Secretary Mark Villar is unaware of this alleged insertion.
“Ang akala namin PHP50 billion lang ang insertion ng DBM, PHP75 billion pala (We thought the insertion made by the DBM was only PHP50 billion, but it was actually PHP75 billion). He (Diokno) did this on his own volition,” Andaya said.
Andaya also noted that Diokno has admitted his affinity with husband-and-wife, Casiguran Mayor Edwin Hamor and Sorsogon Vice Governor Esther Hamor, who are in-laws of his daughter.
Andaya found it unbelievable for Diokno not knowing about his in-laws’ bid for public office in Sorsogon, as well as not having an inkling that the DBM allocated and released PHP10 billion infrastructure projects for Sorsogon province for the 2018 budget, and PHP6 billion for next year.
“Ang nakakapagtaka, hindi raw alam ni Secretary Diokno na tatakbong mayor sa 2019 elections ang kanyang mga balae. Si Ester Hamor, tatakbong Mayor ng Sorsogon City, si Edwin Hamor naman re-electionist as Mayor of Casiguran, Sorsogon. Hindi raw ito nababanggit sa kanya ng anak niya (What is questionable is Secretary Diokno not knowing that his in-laws are running for office in the 2019 elections. Ester Hamor will run for mayor in Sorsogon City, while Edwin Hamor is re-electionist as mayor of Casiguran, Sorsogon. Diokno said this was not brought up by his daughter),” Andaya said.
“Hindi niya raw alam na kasama ang mga amount na ito sa National Expenditure Program na binuo ng DBM. PHP10 billion this year at PHP6 billion next year, pero di alam ng Budget Secretary kung saan mapupunta (Diokno also does not know that these amounts were included in the National Expenditure Program that was crafted by the DBM. PHP10 billion for this year and PHP6 billion for next year, but the Budget Secretary is not aware about this?)” he added.
Diokno, however, admitted that he controls the budget process on the part of the executive department — from budget preparation to release of appropriations.
Diokno also admitted he controls the allocation and disbursement of savings generated from the national budget every fiscal year.
“Diokno’s control of the budget process with regard to infrastructure projects is also bolstered by the denials made by the President and DPWH Secretary on the budget insertion issue. Hindi alam ni Presidente and PHP75-billion insertion. Hindi rin alam ito ni Secretary Villar (Both the President and Secretary Villar are unaware of the PHP75-billion insertion). Among the three of them, I believe the President’s and Secretary Villar’s assertions,” Andaya said.
“All these facts point to one thing: Diokno is the man responsible for budget insertions and questionable allocations in the budget preparation and execution. He is the man who knows everything: every centavo for every project,” he added.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the executive branch will still investigate the allegations and committed that there will be no sacred cows despite Diokno’s denial.
“Secretary Diokno has already denied any involvement or any link. But let me repeat what we have said repeatedly: This President is no respecter of friendship, of alliances, of party affiliations, of friendship. His principle is you follow the law; you violate it — you will account for it. You engage in corruption, then you will be fired,” Panelo said.
Panelo, however, said Diokno still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President.
“Oh, definitely. Mr. Diokno is known to be the Mr. No. Meaning, he is a man of integrity. So, when he says he’s not involved, I believe him. Unless you show me, as a lawyer, competent evidence to the contrary; the presumption he is a man of competence and integrity,” Panelo said. (PNA)