Budget Secretary: No pork, insertions in 2019 budget

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — There are no insertions, pork barrel, or parked funds in proposed appropriations for 2019, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Thursday.

"I don't know about the insertions... This is the President's budget. Congress has no role in the preparation of the budget," Diokno told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"I prepared it, I presented it to the President in a Cabinet meeting, and that's it," he added. "Their duty is to scrutinize the budget... They have the prerogative to change it, delete it, replace it, et cetera."

Congress is tackling the proposed ₱3.575-trillion national budget for next year. Some lawmakers allegedly inserted around ₱50 billion worth of items supposedly allocated to around 30 to 40 lawmakers favored by former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Malacañang washed its hands off the supposed insertion on Tuesday.

"If it is true that there are items which were not in the [National Expenditure Program], then we do not know where that came from," Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. "We leave it to the House to do as it deems proper with these items."

The money has since been realigned to infrastructure initiatives, capital outlays under disaster risk reduction, and other items.

But Diokno said the House squabble on the issue still confused him. He said he even cut the Deparment of Public Works and Highways' request by ₱96 billion.

The budget chief said representatives are free to pitch projects, possibly through a Regional Development Council, but all requests were still vetted by his department. Basketball courts and parking lots, for example, no longer get the green light, Diokno added.

"If a congressman wants a school building constructed in this part of his district, one option is he will go to [Education Secretary] Liling Briones and make a request. Is there something wrong with that? That's his role," said Diokno.

"They go through a rigorous process. If it's not worthwhile or in accordance with our menu... it won't get reflected in the budget."

Watch the full interview with Diokno here.