Budget ‘insertion’ claim baffles Duterte, says Panelo

January 08, 2019
Salvador Panelo

“WHAT insertion?”

So said President Rodrigo Duterte as he came to the defense of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno in the latter’s tiff with House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. involving the alleged “insertions” in the proposed 2019 national budget.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo yesterday told Palace reporters in his briefing that President Duterte was baffled as to why Andaya was making a big deal out of the adjustments made by the Department of Budget and Management to the proposed 2019 budget before submitting it to the House of Representatives for deliberations.

“The President said last night, ‘What insertion? How can you insert (in) something that you prepared?’” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

Andaya has accused Diokno of using his influence as budget chief to pour millions of funds for flood control projects in Bicol which were supposedly cornered by a company owned by his in-laws.

He accused Diokno of arbitrarily “inserting” P75 billion in the proposed budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

He alleged that Sorsogon got P10 billion in infrastructure funds last year. The province is a bailiwick of the Hamors, Diokno’s in-laws.

Romeo Sicat Jr., the husband of Diokno’s daughter Charlotte Justine, is an incorporator of Aremar Construction, which supposedly cornered a huge chunk of the P10 billion infrastructure projects for Sorsogon.

Diokno has denied Andaya’s allegations and said any adjustments to the proposed budget of the DPWH was made upon the latter’s request.

He said the P114.3 billion allocation for flood control projects in 2019 was “well below” the initial DPWH request of 132.5 billion.

He also said no contractor was favored in the awarding of projects since the DBM is not involved in implementation.

“Again, the role of the DBM is to set the budget ceiling for the line agencies and to evaluate whether their programs are aligned with the government’s priorities,” he said.

Andaya’s numbers to illustrate the alleged scam are “irresponsible and misleading,” the budget department also said in a statement.