The lawmaker has every right to be upset.
He was outraged to find out that after the meticulous work put in by his colleagues in the finetuning of the 2021 national budget, the final, reconciled government spending plan showed mysterious fund “migration” if not outright “disappearances”.
Are the usual budgetary bandits and financial wizards with their magic wands at it again?
And how come they always attempt and seemingly succeed at doing the same old dirty trick over and over again towards the finish line of the congressional budgetary process?
Is there a well-entrenched “replacement bureau” whose nefarious job is to turn the budget upside down, inside out, and mangled all over?
No wonder the good senator could not contain his anger.
“Not even the pandemic and its crippling effects could stop the greed of some lawmakers as they toyed around with the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021,” Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson lamented.
Lacson said this after the bicameral report on the budget showed not only “manipulations” in the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget, but also cuts in the budgets of other departments previously approved under the Senate and House versions of the budget bill.
“Congress bicameral committee report: P83.87 billion of DPWH infra projects migrated to new areas while appropriations worth P55.52 billion disappeared. As if it wasn’t enough to satisfy their greed, they cut the budgets of other departments by P28.35 billion. Story of our lives,” he said on his Twitter account.
“These realignments being capricious and arbitrary on the part of the bicameral conference committee members, they did not involve proper planning by the DPWH. This explains why, as I have pointed out in my interpellation last Wednesday, year in and year out, DPWH suffers one of the lowest budget utilization rates with an annual average of P82 billion from 2011 to 2018 and even lower average disbursement rate since 2017,” he added.
“This only shows that for some, a pandemic — and the crippling effects it has on all sectors of society — should not get in the way of personal interests,” the lawmaker lamented.
Citing adjustments made in the bicameral conference, he said new items in the DPWH budget were created by the legislators, while other items already existing were further augmented with incremental allocations totaling P83.87 billion.
Meanwhile, decreases were reflected on some existing items while the rest of the items were completely removed. Lacson said an initial check showed the total aggregate decrement amounts to P55.521 billion.
“Since there is a difference of P28.35 billion, they had to extract from the programs, activities and projects of other departments or agencies to make up for the shortage,” he said.
Last Wednesday, Lacson questioned the contrasting fates of the budgets of the DPWH and Department of Information and Communications Technology in the 2021 budget bill.
He said that while the DPWH is getting an added P28.438 billion despite its record of underspending and wasteful projects, the DICT is getting a “useless” increase of less than P1 billion even if it needs P18 billion to implement a much-needed national broadband program.
On Thursday evening, Lacson said the dubious appropriations for the DPWH could be a key starting point for Malacañang in its review of the budget bill.