MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang had no ready response for claims by lawmakers that billions of pesos worth of alleged insertions in the proposed 2019 national budget actually came from the executive branch.
Instead, Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said they would leave it up to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to respond to such claims when he speaks before the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 11.
“Let’s see, since Secretary Diokno will be appearing there tomorrow, let’s hear,” Panelo said when asked for the Palace stance on the matter.
But House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had apparently reached out to Panelo to explain the supposed P2.4 billion allocated to towns under her district, the 2nd District of Pampanga.
Panelo earlier called on Arroyo and other lawmakers to explain these controversial budgetary items which had first been alleged by Senator Panfilo Lacson.
Duterte’s spokesman said the House Speaker texted him and said these items had been explained already by lawmakers like House committee on appropriations acting chairperson Maria Carmen Zamora.
In Zamora’s explanation, as quoted by Arroyo in her message to Panelo, the controversial allocations originated from government agencies – meaning the executive branch, not from lawmakers.
“Contrary to the allegation of pork barrel, they said that this time there were items and these items were given by different agencies. In other words, prior to the approval they’ve been there, unlike the pork barrel lump sum where there is no specific item where it will go,” said Panelo, recalling Arroyo’s message.
Arroyo also supposedly pointed to House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya’s explanation.
“Even according to Andaya, there are so many other congressmen [who got budget allocations] even beyond the amount referred to as having been allocated to the area of Speaker Arroyo,” said Panelo. – Rappler.com
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