MANILA, Philippines – The Senate is bent on deleting the controversial P75 billion in the proposed 2019 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways, upon the proposal of Senator Panfilo Lacson.
The questioned amount, first revealed in the House of Representatives, was added by the Department of Budget and Management to the DPWH’s proposed allocation under the National Expenditure Program. The House also approved it in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill or budget bill.
“There was an agreement between this representation and the sponsor and we need the comment of the agency, the DPWH, that the P75 billion, that they admitted not knowing except when or until it was included in the NEP be deleted at the proper time during period of amendments,” Lacson said during the plenary deliberations on Monday, January 14.
Senate finance chair Loren Legarda, sponsor of the DPWH budget, said Secretary Mark Villar agreed to it: “He already mentioned it to me.”
On Monday, Senators engaged in a heated debate on the DPWH budget, focusing on the added funds.
Senator Minority Leader Franklin Drilon hit the DBM for its apparent abuse of discretion.
In defense of the agency, Legarda said it was the executive’s prerogative to prepare and realign the proposed budget. But Drilon said it could not be done arbitrarily.
“There is no question that it is the President’s prerogative. But such prerogative cannot be exercised arbitrarily. DPWH is in the dark. They have no idea what these projects are. There is an indication of abuse in discretion,” Drilon said.
The issue was highlighted after senators found out that the DBM, during the budget preparations, gave the DPWH a budget ceiling of P480 billion.
The DPWH, following the instruction, submitted a proposal in the said amount. But in the end, without consulting DPWH, the DBM disregarded its imposed ceiling and added an additional P75 billion worth of projects to the agency.
In short, when the NEP reached Congress, DBM submitted a total budget of P555 billion for the DPWH.
No consultation with DPWH
Lacson said the DPWH should have been consulted since the agency would be the one to implement the projects.
Legarda, quoting Villar beside her, said the DPWH only knew about the additional funds when Villar saw the NEP. He also said that it was an initiative of the DBM.
“Upon submission of the NEP, that is when Secretary Villar saw the P75 billion from the P480 billion the DPWH submitted,” Legarda said.
Drilon said there seemed to be a “light from somewhere” that prompted DBM to provide additional money to the DPWH – to which Lacson said, “definitely not from the DPWH.”
“Suddenly it dawned on them that we should make it plus P75 billion. In other words, not only P480 billion but suddenly we should add P75 billion. The question being asked is how did the P75 billion come about when precisely the DPWH is in the dark as to how this came about,” Drilon said.
As of posting, the Senate is still deliberating the agency’s budget. The chamber is eyeing to pass the proposed 2019 budget on Monday, January 21. A bicameral conference committee would be convened after to thresh out differenes between the House and Senate versions. – Rappler.com