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House to probe DBM's failure to allocate budget for BOL plebiscite.

By Ben Rosario

Still smarting from accusations of alleged involvement in the so-called flood control budget scam, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno faces allegations of negligence for failing to allocate budgets that will finance the forthcoming plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the actual implementation of the recently-passed measure.

Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya called for a congressional inquiry on Diokno's alleged lapses that threaten the full implementation of the BOL.

Andaya said congressional investigation should be conducted by the Committee on Appropriations.

He said the House panel will also be tasked to look into the failure of the Department of Budget Management (DBM) to release funds to pay government contractors that have implemented various infrastructure projects.

"We are now in debt to contractors to the tune of P100 billion payable last year," Andaya declared at yesterday's resumption of plenary session.

In an earlier press conference, Andaya disclosed that the plebiscite areas affected by the BOL are jeopardized by the failure of the DBM to propose budget for the exercise.

The House official noted that such a slip by Diokno is similar to when he refused to release funds for the adjustment of salaries of government workers this year.

The plebiscite dates fall on January 21 to be conducted in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Isabela City and Cotabato City; and on February 6 in Lanao del Norte, except Iligan City and North Cotabato municipalities of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigcawayan and Pikit.

Andaya said neither the DBM nor the Commission on Elections has proposed the inclusion of at least P1-billion budget to cover expenses for the two poll exercises.

Such lapse, Andaya said, could be considered as an act of negligence on the part of Diokno.

"He completely forgot about it. And had we listened and passed the budget without even looking at it, then we would have been part of that negligence," said Andaya.

"Maybe he has other things in mind ... maybe the flood control scam," Andaya stated, referring to the on-going probe of the alleged budgeting irregularities for flood control projects in areas not threatened by natural calamities," he said.

Opposition Reps. Gary Alejano (Magdalo Partylist) and Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna Partylist) joined the majority leader in assailing Diokno's obstinate stance against House-backed budget proposals.

Alejano lamented that that there have been reports that Andaya is being threatened with removal from his post, saying that this apparently is caused by local politics in Camarines Sur.

"In my view as a member of the opposition, regardless of the Speaker, I want that the alleged anomaly in the budget be investigated and rectified, the business of the

House is carried out, the image of the institution is protected, and the interest of the people is upheld and pursued," said Alejano.

In a privilege speech, Zarate defended the Lower House from accusations that it delayed the passage of the proposed 2019 national budget. He said the delay was caused by anomalies of 'insertion and augmentation" of proposed 2019 allocations made by the DBM.



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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jan 15, 2019
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