MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The House of Representatives is set to subject Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to a question hour at 3 pm on Tuesday, December 11.
Lawmakers summoned Diokno to a question hour – a period during the plenary session wherein legislators can ask questions to a department head regarding all matters concerning his agency – after the plenary adopted Minority Leader Danilo Suarez’s House Resolution (HR) 2307 on December 4.
Suarez and other minority lawmakers have previously aired concerns over the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019, which the House had approved on 3rd and final reading.
The congressmen are wary that the 2019 budget may be used by politicians to campaign in the 2019 elections. They also slammed the underspending under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr already wrote a letter to Diokno informing him that he is “hereby required to appear” at the Batasang Pambansa’s session hall on Tuesday.
Diokno confirmed to Rappler that he would attend the question hour on Tuesday.
Senator Panfilo Lacson recently accused the House of passing a 2019 budget riddled with pork barrel funds. He disclosed that P2.4 billion was allocated for Pampanga’s 2nd District alone, which is represented by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Andaya himself previously admitted that every lawmaker got P60 million and each senator P200 million to allot for their pet projects. But he and other minority lawmakers denied these discretionary funds were a form of Priority Development Assistance Fund, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2013.
Diokno himself had denied the presence of pork barrel funds in the 2019 budget that the Department of Budget and Management helped prepare.
Andaya also said that the House got delayed in passing the proposed 2019 budget as several departments in the executive branch were still requesting more reallocations, which will be finalized only at the bicameral conference committee level with the Senate.
The goverment is already expected to operate on a reenacted budget until February 2019, given the limited time senators have to deliberate on the 2019 budget before the 17th Congress suspends session for the holidays by Wednesday, December 12. – With a report from Aika Rey/Rappler.com