Diokno on 2017 budget: No cap for lawmakers' pet projects

MANILA, Philippines – Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said there is no pork barrel in the proposed 2017 national budget, but at the same time revealed that there will be no limit on projects that lawmakers can propose for their districts.

The Department of Budget and Management submitted on Monday, August 15, the P3.35-trillion proposed budget for 2017 to the House of Represenatives, where Diokno was asked to confirm earlier reports that each lawmaker can propose up to P80 million worth of projects. 

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said this is not a return of the now-unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) because the P80 million is not a lump sum allocation but instead would be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).  

“The allocation for the Department of Public Works [and Highways and other allocations] will not be based per congressman or senator…. Those are rumors but they are not true. There is no PDAF in this budget,” said Diokno on Monday.  

According to him, it is the “right” of representatives to request for projects that they think would benefit their constituents.  

“Between, for example, a district engineer and a congressman and they would request, I would rather give the congressman the right to request and identify some projects. The district engineer is not elected, the congressman is elected. It’s just proper to give them credit when they make a request,” said Diokno. 

The budget secretary added that there is “no hard and fast rule” for putting budget caps on district-based projects that lawmakers would request to be included in the GAA.

“They may go to some heads of agencies and ask for projects, but there is no hard and fast rule. It is their right as congressmen to request for their constituents..., Congressmen would identify P100 million worth of projects but they are not eligible. Like if all of them are basketball courts, [they will get] zero," said Diokno.

"But there are so many who identify specific projects which are worthwhile, which are consistent with the desire of the President for the development of the countryside. We will of course consider their request," he added.

In 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously voted against the PDAF after it was revealed that billions of pesos under it were going to bogus non-governmental organizations that lawmakers had endorsed in exchange for commissions. (READ: Pork Tales: A Story of Corruption

The House appropriations committee, led by Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles, will begin its months-long budget deliberations on August 22.

Based on the proposed appropriations, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is prioritizing expanding public infrastructure, improving agriculture and rural development, and strengthening peace and order. – 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.