P50-B ‘misplaced’ funds discovered in 2019 budget

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wants to review the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019, after receiving reports from congressmen that there are around P50 billion worth of “misplaced” funds distributed in several districts.

This was revealed by House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya after the House postponed the scheduled start of the plenary debates on the 2019 budget on Monday, September 17. 

Andaya said “at least 50 congressmen” had been going to Arroyo’s office to testify that there are allocations and “activities happening in their districts which they are not aware of” both in the 2018 budget as well as the proposed 2019 budget.

Sources said the money was allegedly inserted when the 2019 budget was being prepared during the time of ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. 

Alvarez, however, denied making such insertions in the 2019 budget.

"I don't know what they are talking about. Why should I insert budget outside of my district? It does not make sense," the Davao del Norte 1st District representative told Rappler.

Andaya said: “We’re in the process of looking for this so-called P50 billion na 'yan. Trillion na 'yong budget natin, so medyo matagal-tagal na himayan na 'yan. But, again, luckily, with the aid of a lot of the members, we are slowly zeroing in on this so-called insertion.

(We're in the proces of looking for this so-called P50 billion. Our budget is at the trillions already, so it would take some time to sift through all of it. But, again, luckily, with the aid of a lot of the members, we are slowly zeroing in on this so-called insertion.)

“That's what we were trying to tell them, that there are allocations there that seem to be misplaced and can we please look at it,” he added. 

The Camarines Sur 1st district representative clarified that the House leadership is not seeking to reduce the budget being proposed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. 

Rather, they plan on realigning parts of the budget if they find any misplaced allocations. Andaya said they do not plan to reduce the 2019 budget. 

“And I think this is where we are stalled. I think this is where the issues are muddled in the guise of having to pass the President’s budget intact, making claims that it will be slashed. Di po ito 'yung issue eh (That’s not the issue). The issue is how the budget was allocated and how the previous budget or the present budget is being spent,” said Andaya.

He said the House leadership plans to begin deliberating on the 2019 budget at the plenary Tuesday, September 18, instead.

Lawmakers allied with Arroyo previously gave an assurance that the 2019 budget would not have the unconstitutional pork barrel.

This is the second major stumbling block to passing the 2019 budget in the House. Lawmakers earlier rejected the cash-based budgeting system being proposed next year. 

The executive and legislative branches later arrived at a compromise upon the intervention of PresidentDuterte. 

A 2nd committee report on the budget?

On Monday morning, sources said the House leadership wanted to replace committee on appropriations chairperson Karlo Nograles over the alleged P50-billion insertion issue.

Nograles was among the committee chairpersons appointed during Alvarez’s term and who later retained their positions when Arroyo took over. 

Nograles said he had called for a meeting with the committee members at 9 am on Monday because the House leadership supposedly wanted him to sign another committee report on the 2019 budget instead of the one his panel originally prepared.

“There was a meeting, yes. Because they wanted me to conduct a committee hearing this morning.... They wanted me to approve another committee report, which did not happen,” said Nograles. 

But he denied P50 billion was allegedly inserted into the budget for the district projects of several lawmakers.

“There’s nothing anymore to discuss. Wala naman tayong in-approve na ganyan. Wala namang ganyan klase (We didn’t approve anything like that. There is no such thing),” said Nograles.

“We will defend the general appropriations bill as submitted by the President that has been approved by the committee on appropriations, that was approved by the rules committee, that is now sitting on the desk of each and every congressman on the floor, and that is what we will defend on the floor, that is what we will debate upon on the floor,” he added.

Andaya, however, clashed with Nograles. Andaya denied the existence of the second committee report.

He also said that the approprations panel has so far not submitted any committee report to the committee on rules, which Andaya chairs. 

Sources said it was during the 9 am meeting of the approprations panel that Andaya had a shouting match with Nograles and Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte. – 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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