BUDGET SECRETARY Benjamin Diokno said Friday the allegation that he bribed lawmakers with PHP40 billion in government savings is “absolutely false.”
“It is again one of his wild and baseless accusations,” Diokno said in a statement in reaction to the latest claims by House of Representatives appropriations committee chair, Rolando Andaya Jr.
“If I were trying to silence the Committee, why would I even bother to submit to them the 2017 and 2018 savings for their review,” he said.
Andaya announced his latest claims during the resumption of the hearing for the proposed PHP3.757-trillion national budget for this year, which the Bicameral Conference Committee approved late Friday afternoon.
Approval of the national budget was delayed on allegations that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) increased the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) budget by PHP75 billion by inserting several supposedly questionable projects.
Andaya initially said Diokno was behind these changes, but during the series of hearings, some DPWH personnel said it was DBM Undersecretary Amenah Pangandaman who ordered the additional funds.
In a separate statement Friday, DBM noted that “a series of questions forwarded by Congressman Andaya, DPWH Undersecretary Catalina Cabral herself admitted that the (PHP)75-billion adjustment is just that — an adjustment.”
“Citing (DPWH) Secretary (Mark) Villar, the Undersecretary acknowledged that adjustments are normal during the budget preparation phase. This is all part of the budget process,” it said.
The statement noted that “in fact, upon the interrogation of Congressman Bayani Fernando, Usec. Cabral also admitted that the projects included in the project listing for the (PHP)75 billion adjustment have since been vetted by their regional/district offices, and no one had qualms regarding inclusion of these projects.”
“As such, it is clear than the adjustments went through the proper process with DBM and the DPWH,” it said.
The agency also called on DPWH officials “to be more forthright in assuring the public that the matters related to their agency budget are aboveboard.”
“We reiterate that the DBM has done its part in ensuring the concerned officials were consulted regarding changes in the proposed budget throughout the budget preparation phase,” it added. (Joann Villanueva)
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