Department of Budget and Management chief still no show

February 08, 2019
Benjamin Diokno

CITING violations of the House rules governing inquiries in aid of legislation, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno again refused to attend the hearing conducted by the House Committee on Appropriations chaired by  Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr.

Instead, Diokno sent a letter to Speaker Gloria MAcapagal-Arroyo requesting that the hearing be reset and him and other  officials of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) given proper notice and a fair and just hearing.

While Diokno assured Speaker Arroyo of cooperation in the congressional hearing, he wanted an advance list of questions that the solons will ask him.

According to Diokno, the Subpoena Ad Testificandum, signed by Arroyo, was received by the DBM 11 a.m. Thursday morning and the hearing is scheduled the following Friday.

Diokno invoked House rules specifically citing Section 8 (3) of the Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries which provides “subpoena shall be served to a witness at leasr three days before a scheduled hearing in order to give the witness every opportunity to prepare for the hearing and to employ counsel, should the witness desire.”

Meanwhile, at the continuation of the hearing, a Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) official said the department sees nothing wrong with the  inclusion by the  DBM of an additional  P75 billion infrastructure allocation to the DPWH budget even without prior knowledge of its officials.

Appearing as resource person, DPWH Undersecretary Catalina Cabral stressed that the alleged “insertion” in the 2019 DPWH allocation is part of a “normal budget process.”

Cabral assured the committee that details of the P75 billion that was added to the P480 billion DPWH budget were later sent to regional offices for proper vetting.

According to Cabral, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar learned of the P75 billion only after the proposed 2019 national expenditure program (NEP) was submitted to Congress.

“I recall the Secretary saying we consider it a budgetary adjustment and therefore DBM has the prerogative to add or reduce. We took the NEP as it is,” she said.

“After it was submitted to Congress, we gave our regions and district a copy of the entire NEP for them to evaluate whether the projects can be implemented,” she added.