‘Parking’ budget scheme bared

Sorsogon Rep. Deogracias Ramos Jr. on Friday confirmed that several district and party-list lawmakers are “parking” funds outside their congressional districts.

Ramos said the initial P2.7 billion worth of infrastructure projects in his district ballooned to P5 billion after some of his colleagues parked their allocations with him.

“There were congressmen or party-list [representatives] who parked their allocations [with] my district... meaning they added their allocation to my district,” Ramos said.

One party-list lawmaker parked P1 billion released for infrastructure with his district.

“Then there was another congressman, I do not know where he got the funds but he gave my district P500 million, then another added P300 million. I don’t know where they got it,” Ramos said in interview.

Ramos declined to identify the lawmakers, however, saying he discovered the irregularity only after the 2018 budget was approved.

He said he did not bother to return the funds because his province needed the infrastructure funds.

Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said the House would look into Ramos’ revelations.

Andaya on Friday said he believed Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno single-handedly orchestrated budget insertions amounting to P75 billion in the proposed 2019 national budget without any approval or instructions from President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The President has spoken. He has no hand in the identification of infrastructure projects inserted by the DBM in the national budget,” Andaya said.

He added that Diokno should prepare to explain to lawmakers the “mysterious” appearance of the insertions.

“The message of President Duterte is clear: identification of projects and disbursement of budget allocations is the work of his Cabinet. He is not, in any way, involved in the budget process,” Andaya said.

“The President’s statements speak volumes. Those who hide behind the mantle of the presidency, invoke his name for actions he knew nothing of, withhold information from him, should take the cue,” he added.

He also quoted the President as saying that he took care only of appointments and policies.

Andaya earlier warned that the government could be accused of swindling legitimate contractors by failing to settle P100 billion in payables when Diokno was making P75 billion in insertions into the 2019 budget.

During Tuesday’s Question Hour, Andaya said Diokno admitted that government payables to contractors have reached P100 billion, P44 billion of which was for completed projects for the Department of Public Works and Highways.

A Palace spokesman on Friday expressed disappointment over the failure of Congress to pass the proposed 2019 budget before the end of the year, the first time in eight years this has happened.

“We submitted the budget on the first day [of the 30 days within which to submit after the State of the Nation Address in July]. We are of course disappointed that it did not pass as expected,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

The President has not called for a special session to expedite the passage of the budget at the request of the Senate.

The government will have to operate under a reenacted budget until the 2019 spending plan is approved. This means it will be unable to fund programs appropriated for next year, and must operate on the same budget as 2018.

READ: Diokno slams ‘rude’ treatment

Topics: Deogracias Ramos Jr , Benjamin Diokno , Rolando Andaya , Rodrigo Duterte , Budget
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