Senator confirms insertions in 2019 budget

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 10) — Senator Win Gatchalian said "there were probably insertions" in the 2019 budget, as previously claimed by other lawmakers, but these may not necessarily be all linked to corruption.

"The question now if whether those insertions are really needed or those insertions are not needed, and those insertions can be a root cause of corruption," Gatchalian told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday.

The Senate economic affairs committee chair explained that some insertions, if actually needed for projects for the benefit of the people, may be above board.


But he said these insertions are usually the product of lobbying of local government officials to lawmakers, which would have to follow the regular budgetary process and be forwarded to line agencies which would evaluate whether these projects are needed.

"The right method there is to bring it back to the line agencies because the line agencies will have the regional development plans and the regional investment plans. All of these documents are very important because these are the guiding documents which would determine whether that project is needed in that area or not," Gatchalian said.

He said lawmakers should not try to cut corners around the budgetary process by inserting funding for their pet projects in the budget bill, which should be aligned with projects asked for by local governments and included in regional development plans.


However, he said breaking this practice proved to be easier said than done.

"It's very difficult to stop congressmen and even legislators. Ako, I have to admit, some of the local governments come to us," Gatchalian said.

The senator said leaders of the legislative and executive branches of government can fix the issue on insertions.

He said the House Speaker could tell congressmen to coordinate with line agencies if they needed anything for their districts and bar them from cutting the budgetary process short, while the executive should ensure that legislators' projects should be part of the development plan.

Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri previously admitted that all lawmakers have "institutional insertions" and that there is "nothing wrong" with these, which are used to provide funding for government projects.

Senator Ping Lacson has hit this insertion, saying it is akin to the Priority Development Assistance Fund, commonly known as pork, which the Supreme Court outlawed in 2013.

READ: Lacson maintains 'pork' inserted in 2019 budget

Present evidence vs Budget chief

The House rules committee is probing the alleged billion-peso insertion in the 2019 budget supposedly facilitated by Budget Secretary Ben Diokno to favor his daughter's in-laws, Sorsogon Vice Governor Ester Hamor and her husband, Casiguran, Sorsogon Mayor Edwin Hamor, who are both gunning for posts in the midterm polls.

Diokno has repeatedly denied these allegations, saying the Department of Budget and Management decided to realign ₱75.5 billion to the Department of Public Works and Highways for 2019 in fulfillment of their commitment to spend at least five percent of the country's gross domestic product for infrastructure.


Gatchalian said the DBM has the power to cut and realign funds to different government agencies as deemed necessary, but has no hand in the implementation of the projects.

He added that the Senate would also be scrutinizing these claims. Senators expect the proposed ₱3.757 trillion 2019 budget to be enacted by January 27.

However, he said those accusing Diokno of corruption should present evidence to back up their allegations.

"I would want to see the evidence. And off top like this, I would not want to believe it because Secretary Diokno is known for his competence," Gatchalian said.