Ex-Cabinet exec 'parked' P300M in budget – Andaya

MANILA, Philippines – House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr alleged that a former Cabinet official now seeking a post in 2019 "parked" P300 million under infrastructure projects in the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for next year.

The House leader said on Sunday, December 16, that a mayor had told him about the ex-Cabinet official's multimillion-peso insertion for flood mitigation projects in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill.

"The mayor, who requested not to be named in the meantime, disclosed that the Cabinet member parked the allocation in flood mitigation projects for the region," Andaya said in a statement.

"Any time ire-release na raw ang pondo. Nag-site visitation na (The mayor said the funds will be released anytime. A site visit was already finished)," he added.

Andaya said more local government officials from Bicol are already seeking an audience with him to discuss the fund parking scheme in the 2019 budget.

What are "parked" funds? "Parking" funds is a term used when a lump sum of money, often without a specific purpose identified for its use, is listed under the budget of a particular congressional district. This fund is merely "parked" in that allocation, but will be used for a different project or district.

Andaya said this alleged parking scheme of the ex-Cabinet official may explain the huge spike in the allocations for flood mitigation projects, from P79 billion in 2017 to P133 billion for 2018.

He said that in the proposed 2019 budget, a total of P111.4 billion has been allotted for flood mitigation projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Andaya said this latest accusation against a former appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte will be discussed during the House's investigation on the alleged budget anomalies to be held in Naga City on January 3. (READ: Malacañang: Cabinet members can leave Congress hearings if shown ‘disrespect')

Who is the ex-Cabinet official? Andaya did not give any clues in his statement. 

But 5 of Duterte's Cabinet appointees have resigned from their posts because they are running in the 2019 polls: 

They are as follows: 

Why this matters: This is the latest development in the House's ongoing collision course with the executive branch over alleged illegal insertions in the 2019 budget. 

Lawmakers earlier accused Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno of using his influence to bag infrastructure projects in Sorsogon, whose vice governor Ester Hamor is the mother in law of Diokno's daughter.  

Andaya said that documents obtained by the House leadership showed that at least P550 million went to contractor Aremar Construction Corporation, owned by Hamor's daughter.

Andaya claimed that from their initial probe, at least 4 projects were done as a joint venture by Aremar Construction with CT Leoncio Construction and Trading, the contractor that had allegedly cornered multi-million projects with the government since 2017

But a look at the 2018 General Appropriations Act would show that the funds allotted for Daang Maharlika under the Sorsogon District Engineering Office are only P25 million for road widening and P43.857 million for off-carriageway improvement.

Andaya also previously grilled Diokno after the latter admitted to lawmakers that the DBM had added P75 billion to the DPWH budget for 2019, an amount that Andaya said neither DPWH chief Mark Villar nor President Rodrigo Duterte know about.

Diokno already denied all the allegations against him. Both Malacañang and several Cabinet members vouched for his integrity after the House adopted a resolution urging Duterte to fire Diokno. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.