Sotto to House: ‘Why tackle budget issues just now?’
MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday questioned the timing of the investigation launched by the House of Representatives on the alleged anomalies in the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget.
READ: House panel begins probe on 2019 budget ‘anomalies’
Sotto said nonetheless that any senator may bring up the issue.
“Any senator may bring it up if he/she so wishes, but it surprises me to think why the HOR (House of Representatives) did not take those issues up when (the) budget was with them,” he said in a text message.
In an unprecedented move, the lower chamber passed the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) or House Bill No. 8169 last Nov. 20 in an attempt to prevent a reenacted budget this year. But Congress has yet to pass 2019’s expenditure plan until now.
READ: House OKs 2019 budget on final reading
The House launched its probe on the alleged budget “anomalies” last Thursday.
READ: House probe tackles ‘flood-control scam’ in Bicol
Several senators, including Sotto, have defended Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno over allegations he was behind the “insertion” of some P75-billion infrastructure fund in the proposed 2019 national budget without the knowledge of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Department of Public Works and Highways, as well as congressmen whose districts would benefit from the programs.
Diokno said the P75 billion should not be called “insertions” as these were “adjustments” that were part of the budget process.
READ: Senators shield Diokno from House attack
Earlier in the day, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said there may be a need to “re-examine closely” the 2019 national budget, arguing that the country’s fiscal deficit “do not look so good.”
READ: Congress may have to ‘re-examine the 2019 budget closely’ – Andaya
Andaya has also been claiming that several contractors — which cornered billions in pesos of infrastructure project — are being used as dummies for Aremar Construction Corp., which is owned by Maria Minez Hamor, daughter of Casiguran Mayor Edward Hamor.
READ: Andaya: P10-B Sorsogon projects all went to Diokno in-laws’ firm, dummies
Edward is the husband of Sorsogon Vice Gov. Ester Hamor, mother of Romeo Sicat Jr. who is the husband of Charlotte Justin, Diokno’s daughter.
Diokno and Edward have dismissed the accusations.
Andaya started his exposès after Senator Panfilo Lacson alleged that Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo got P2.4 billion in “pork barrel” funds while the Camarines Sur congressman got P1.9 billion. Both denied Lacson’s allegations. /ee
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