MANILA House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. on Thursday said he wants Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno to address the supposed anomalies concerning the PHP75-billion insertion for infrastructure funding in the proposed 2019 national budget.
In a statement, Andaya said Diokno should directly answer the numerous questions in connection with the budget controversy, as he hoped that the Budget chief would consider attending the congressional inquiry even if he was barred from doing so by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The House committee on rules will conduct its congressional hearing on the alleged budget controversies and questionable allocations by Diokno in the National Expenditure Program on Jan. 3, 2019 in Naga City.
We hope Secretary Diokno will reconsider his decision not to appear in the hearings to be conducted by the House Rules Committee on the questionable allocations by the DBM in the national budget. He has a lot of explaining to do, Andaya said.
Andaya revealed that the DBM allegedly allocated more than PHP325 million for infrastructure projects under the 2019 national budget in Casiguran, Sorsogon, where Diokno's in-laws currently hold government positions.
During the congressional question hour, Diokno admitted his affinity with the husband-and-wife, Casiguran Mayor Edwin Hamor and Sorsogon Vice Governor Esther Hamor, who are in-laws of his daughter. Both his in-laws' are running for public office in Sorsogon in the 2019 elections.
These projects were included in the PHP75 billion inserted by the DBM in the NEP submitted to Congress. Interestingly, the PHP325-million new projects in Casiguran are part again of the Flood Control Program, Andaya said.
This recent discovery of PHP325-million allocation for new projects in Casiguran for 2019 raises a red flag as pieces of evidence already uncovered point to Secretary Diokno's in-laws as the real beneficiaries of infrastructure projects in Sorsogon, he added.
Andaya said these flood control projects include the Himaoyon Flood Control (PHP75 million); Lungib Seawall and Embankment (PHP80 million); Somal-ot Seawall and Embankment (PHP100 million); Cagpagol River Control (PHP45 million); and Suji River Control (PHP25 million).
Andaya said his panel would also question the Department of Public Works and Highways on the sudden surge of multi-billion peso allocations for flood mitigation projects, which could be where the so-called parked funds are hidden.
He said the DBM increased the allocation for flood-control projects in 2018 by almost PHP54 billion even as various areas in the country continue to experience flooding.
For the proposed 2019 national budget, PHP114.4 billion is for flood control projects out of the PHP544.5-billion DPWH budget.
Diokno, meanwhile, said the allegations hurled against him were meant to divert public attention from insertions in the proposed 2019 national budget.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo agreed with Diokno's statement, while pointing out that after Senator Panfilo Lacson exposed certain insertions in the proposed budget, congressmen were put on the hot seat.
I was just following the line of Secretary Diokno. According to him, this started because Senator Lacson exposed certain amendments or insertions. And because the members of Congress or two of them were in the hot seat, according to him most likely they tried to put him on a hot seat instead of them. So, in a way, it's diverting the issue from them to him, Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Panelo reiterated that Diokno still enjoys the trust and confidence of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and stood by his integrity and competence.
The reputation of Secretary Diokno is solid. In 32 years of his service, there is nothing that we can throw at him. He was known to be one who says 'no' to any irregularity or any favor that is asked of him and he has been consistent with that, Panelo said. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency