Nograles praises House realignment of P51 billion in DPWH funds

MANILA, Philippines – He may not have sponsored the proposed 2019 budget at the House plenary, but committee on appropriations chairperson Karlo Nograles still praised the realignment of P51.792 billion from the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Nograles said on Wednesday, September 19, that the decision of the committee of the whole to realign the funds was the right call because other sectors whose allocations were reduced under the cash-based budgeting system were able to benefit.

"Mas mabuti itong committee report na ginawa ng committee of the whole, kasi nakikita natin na from the reductions, napunta siya do'n sa naging budget cut ng DepEd (Department of Education), sa mga school buildings, sa DOH (Department of Health) na Health Facilities Enhancement Program, at sa SUCs, state universities and colleges," Nograles told ANC's Headstart.

(The committee report of the committee of the whole is better, because we can see that the reductions went to restore the budget cuts in the DepEd for school buildings, the DOH for its Health Facilities Enhancement Program, and state universities and colleges.)

The House leadership convened the committee of the whole on Tuesday, September 18, to realign DPWH funds originally earmarked for infrastructure projects in certain regions to other projects of the DPWH and other state agencies instead. (READ: Senators vow to scrutinize House's P51-B realignment in 2019 budget)

But by convening the committee of the whole, the House leadership effectively overruled the original committee report approved by Nograles' panel. 

This came after Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Majority Leader Rolando Andaya discovered around P50 billion "misplaced" in the 2019 budget. 

The alleged insertion was supposedly the reason why Andaya, Nograles, and Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte engaged in a shouting match on Monday morning, September 17. 

Nograles said the House leadership had wanted his panel to approve a second committee report, but Andaya denied this.  

This budget impasse delayed the scheduled plenary deliberations for the 2019 budget by two days. 

On Wednesday, committee on appropriations vice chairperson Maria Carmen Zamora finally sponsored House Bill No. 8169 or the general appropriations bill on the 2019 budget for 2nd reading approval at the plenary.

Sponsorship of the proposed national budget, however, is usually done by the appropriations panel chairperson.

No pork barrel?

Nograles once again denied accusations that the realigned amount is a form of the now-unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel. (READ: Makabayan on 'pork barrel': Lawmakers fighting over people's money

He said it is "impossible" for such an insertion to be done when the National Expenditure Program (NEP), which the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submitted to Congress – came from the executive branch.

"If you ask DBM, if you ask the economic managers, if you ask Malacañang, they're also sticking by the position that this is the executive branch's budget. Everything that was submitted and inside the NEP is what was submitted by the executive," said Nograles.

He said the line items in the NEP were a result of various agencies' consultations with regional development councils.

"Every region [has a] regional development council. And in the regional development council, you have different regional directors meeting together with governors, mayors, congressmen to propose the projects that are good for the districts – what projects should be made for the districts," said Nograles.

"That is submitted to Congress, and Congress just accepts the NEP; and this is what we debate on, this is what we discuss," he added in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Like Nograles, both Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, under whose term the 2019 budget was prepared, denied the budget is riddled with hidden pork barrel funds. – 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.

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