MANILA — The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) may still release the PHP80 billion funding which has been labeled as “diverted” from appropriations for projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program depending on the necessity, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo made this remark after Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson hailed DBM’s move to withhold the release of these congressional realignments subject to certain conditions.
Despite being withheld, Panelo said Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado told him that the funding will have to undergo processes before it is released.
“He said that the PHP84 billion will not be released immediately but depending on the need for the release thereon. In other words, there will be a process,” he said.
Panelo said there were no instructions from President Rodrigo Duterte to withhold its release.
He denied that there were irregularities found in the funding, stressing that the PHP4.1 trillion budget for 2020 would not have been signed if that was the case.
“Kung may nakitang irregularity di hindi na niya pinapasok ‘yun sa budget. Kaya lang, ang sinasabi niya, kung kailangan ‘yun (If there was any irregularity, they wouldn’t have allowed it in the budget. But what they’re saying is, if it is needed), there is a need for that then we have to include it in the budget but they have to pass certain processes,” he said.
He could not determine when the DBM would decide to release the funding.
Lacson has repeatedly claimed that some lawmakers realigned at least PHP80 billion from the infrastructure program in the 2020 national budget to fund their pet projects.
He said the 2020 budget contains around 1,253 budget items amounting to around PHP80 billion which serve as congressmen’s “source” of their “list” of 742 projects worth PHP16.342 billion.
Supportive of the DBM’s move to withhold the funding, Lacson said this showed Duterte’s “strong political will, even against many self-proclaimed allies in Congress whose loyalty clearly lies where the money lies.”
He said Duterte should always be wary of these so-called allies “who only had greed as their only motivation and nothing else.”
On Jan. 6, Duterte signed the 2020 national budget without formally vetoing any provisions.
Duterte said the budget’s passage will support his administration’s goal of cutting poverty rate to just 14 percent and achieving a 7.5 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 2022. (iam/sovereignph.com/PNA)