‘Hidden pork to sway May elections,’ Andaya warns
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno has at his disposal P740 billion in unspent funds from the last two years, enough to influence May’s midterm elections, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., the House appropriations committee chair, said on Tuesday.
Andaya cited documents showing that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had savings of P370 billion in 2017 and a supposedly bigger amount in 2018.
“Documents in our possession show that for 2017, a total of P370 billion was generated in savings. We also know that the amount for 2018 savings is higher, more than enough to sway the outcome of the 2019 elections, if he wants to,” he said.
Disclosure demand rejected
Andaya made the statement after Malacañang rejected his demand to disclose the national government’s savings in 2017 and 2018.
He said last week that Malacañang must report its savings or the House panel on the conference committee on the P3.8-trillion proposed national budget for 2019 would not approve the spending bill.
“I don’t think reporting of 2018 savings is a prerequisite,” said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
Andaya, however, did not respond when asked to elaborate as to how he thought the Duterte administration could use its savings to influence May’s elections.
The House budget panel demanded disclosure after uncovering insertions of up to P51 billion in “parked pork” in the spending bill, according to Andaya.
He, however, admitted that lawmakers had sensed from the start that Diokno and the DBM would oppose disclosing the savings.
“We knew from the beginning [the request] would not be granted, for that [amount] is where the DBM pork lies,” he said.
But Andaya, chair of the House panel, dismissed speculation that the government would operate on the 2018 reenacted budget for the rest of 2019 as a result of the standoff.
“All talk of a reenacted budget are baseless. The 2019 national budget will be ready for the President’s signature next week,” he said.
Andaya said the House panel remained “on target” with its Wednesday deadline for approving the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act.
But even with the predicted passage of the bill, Andaya reiterated the House panel’s stand for the DBM to come clean on the government’s savings.
“As we pass the 2019 budget this week, though, all this talk of pork is useless unless we see the whole picture. The House conferees have demanded to see the lump-sum savings of the DBM for 2018,” he said.
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