MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday pushed for the removal of some P469 billion in the Department of Public Works and Highways' (DPWH) 2021 budget, saying the projects were either lump sums or already included in this year's list of expenses.
More than half or 59 percent of DPWH's proposed P667.3 billion budget next year are lump sums, Lacson said during the first day of budget deliberations in the Senate.
"Primarily, because of the constitutional issues involved, I don’t think we should allow this when we finally pass the budget measure before yearend," he said.
Over the years, Lacson and some senators have been flagging lump sums in the national budget as these, according to them, can easily be pocketed by corrupt officials or diverted to expenses not within the approved spending bill.
Lacson also pushed for the removal of some P73.5-billion worth of construction projects that were already funded in the current budget.
Among the construction projects that were "re-appropriated" are:
- Ormoc-Baybay-Southern Leyte Boundary Road (P42 million)
- Odiong-Sibalom-San Remigio-Leon Road in Antique (P11 million)
- Gamu-Roxas Road (P5.5 million)
- Uyungan-Mahatao Interior Road (P1.9 million)
- Kalinga-Cagayan Road (P709,000)
- Pangasinan-La Union Interprovincial Road (P649,000)
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the projects were re-included in the 2021 budget since a portion of its funding were realigned to COVID-19-related programs earlier this year.
"Part of their budget was utilized for the pandemic. The Secretary of the DPWH still went out of his way to fund these projects, but not of its entirety," Avisado said.
It was "recommended that they be funded again next year to complete the projects. That is why there is a re-listing of projects," he said.
While the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act authorizes President Rodrigo Duterte to realign funds for COVID-19 related projects, the Constitution only allows savings to be moved from one department to another, Lacson said.
"Ang Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, hindi pwedeng lumampas sa Constitution... All laws we pass should be compliant with the provisions of the Constitution," he said.
(The Bayanihan to Heal as Once Act cannot go beyond the Constitution.)
"So kung walang na-cancel na project, walang na-discontinue or na-abandon, wala tayong savings na pwede i-realign," he said.
(If there was no project that was cancelled, discontinued or abandoned, there is no savings that can be realigned.)
"It’s either you realign the whole item as funded, but you cannot pull out an increment," he said.
Lacson also questioned why billions of funds are being allocated to the DPWH and the Department of Transportation (DoTR) annually, when the 2 agencies have been underspending in the past years.
In 2019, the DPWH had the biggest unused budget amounting to P83 billion, while the DoTR did not use P21.65 billion.
"I would urge the DPWH... to submit to us a revised list of Program, Activity and Project (PAP) devoid of lump sums or reappropriated items before some enterprising people start realigning PAPs," Lacson said.
"Kayo na mag-initiate. Baguhin, i-revise n'yo ito in the form of errata. Or, I would suggest submit sa chairman namin, Sen. [Sonny] Angara, ang revised list ninyo para di tayo magkaproblema pagdating ng araw," he said.
(You should initiate to change it, revise it in the form of an errata. Or, I would suggest that you submit your revised list to our chairman, Sen. Angara, so that you won't have problems in the future.)