MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Lawmakers agreed to realign to other government agencies a total of P51.792 billion originally earmarked for various infrastructure projects under the proposed P555.7-billion budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for 2019.
On Tuesday, September 18, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya moved to convene the committee of the whole that took from the committee on appropriations the jurisdiction over House Bill (HB) No. 8169 that contains the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019.
Legislators voted to realign P51.792 billion from the DPWH budget to the following sectors instead:
These realigned funds were taken from the DPWH budget originally allocated for multipurpose facilities, flood control and drainage facilities, national roads and bridges, local roads and bridges, and water supply facilities in 15 regions.
These 15 regions are the National Capital Region, Ilocos Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao, Soccsksargen, and Caraga.
ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, however, questioned the reallocations for the DPWH’s projects on tourism destinations; trades, industries, economic zones, and livelihood centers; and traffic congestion.
He tagged these reallocations as “lump sumps with no details.”
“So based on previous experiences with the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) and the corruption related to approval of such lump sums, I am concerned that at this point no details are being provided…. What are these projects? Where will they be implemented?” said Tinio.
Andaya told Tinio that the committee of the whole was merely tackling a committee report. The majority leader said the details Tinio was asking for would be discussed once the committee report is discussed by the plenary.
The committee of the whole then approved the motion to accept the proposed amendments to the 2019 budget. The committee report is set to be tackled at the plenary on Wednesday, September 19.
The committee of the whole was convened after the House got into another deadlock on the 2019 budget on Monday, September 17.
Andaya said the House leadership discovered around P50 billion worth of “misplaced” funds distributed in several districts, with some lawmakers reportedly getting shares for their districts ranging from P1 billion to more than P4 billion.
House committee on appropriations chairperson Karlo Nograles denied any such insertion was made, saying he is ready to defend at the plenary the 2019 budget being proposed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.
Nograles said the House leadership also wanted him to meet with his panel on Monday at 9 am, ahead of the scheduled plenary deliberations at 10 am, to approve a second committee report on the 2019 budget. But this did not push through.
It was during that time when Andaya, Nograles, and Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte engaged in a shouting match over the alleged budget insertion issue.
Read a full copy of the report of the committee of the whole below: