Palace optimistic Diokno can clarify 2019 budget ‘insertions’

By Azer Parrocha

December 10, 2018, 7:01 pm

MANILA -- Malacañang is counting on Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno to clarify the supposed “insertions” in the PHP3.757-trillion proposed national budget for 2019.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after the House of Representatives (HOR) summoned Diokno on Tuesday to answer questions on issues regarding PHP52 billion insertions which lawmakers have blamed for the delay of the budget’s approval.

“Well, let’s see. Since Secretary Diokno will be appearing there tomorrow, let’s hear,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

Asked if he believed there were irregularities in the 2019 budget, Panelo said the Executive Branch will leave the Congress with the job of determining so.

“The position of the Palace is that, that’s a different branch. Now they have to do their job. And I understand from what I read on the papers today that Budget Secretary Diokno has been invited to explain. So, we leave it at that. We’ll see,” Panelo said.

Earlier, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. claimed that the President himself had funding requests for the major programs of the administration.

Panelo, however, stressed that Duterte never interfered with other branches of government or even other government agencies.

“Si Presidente di nakikialam. Yung mga agencies ang nag-determine kung saan mo ilalagay yung mga budget (The President does not interfere with budget allocations. The agencies determine where to allocate the budget),” Panelo said.

Panelo also denied that the executive branch is to blame for delays in the approval of the budget stressing that the proposal has been submitted as early as July 23, the day President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“Well, you must remember that the national budget has been submitted on the day the SONA was delivered so I do not think that you can fault the Executive branch. It’s the duty of Congress to deliberate on the matter,” Panelo said.

Meanwhile, Panelo said he has yet to speak to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regarding the PHP 2.4 billion worth of projects she allocated for her district in Pampanga.

”I wasn’t able to talk to her; but she texted that Congresswoman Maricar Zamora explained it already,” Panelo said.

“Their explanation is that contrary to the allegation of pork barrel, they said that this time there were items and these items were given by different agencies and it was prior to the approval, they’ve been there. Unlike the pork barrel lump sum where there is no specific item where it will go. That’s the explanation,” he added. (PNA)