Press Briefing

Economic Press Briefing with Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno and PCOO Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan

Event Economic Briefing
Location New Executive Building (NEB) in Malacañang

USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO:  Good morning Malacañang Press Corps, welcome sa weekly Economic Briefing. Today we have Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan to introduce our guest.

ASEC. ABLAN:  Thank you, Usec. Rocky. Good morning everyone and welcome back to the Economic Press Briefing hosted by PCOO and the Economic Development Cluster of the Duterte Cabinet. We’d like to thank you, our friends from media, as well as greet those watching in PTV and via Facebook live, in the FB accounts of PCOO, Department of Finance, the Department of Budget and Management and other member agencies of the EDC at the moment. We also have Asec. Tony Lambino from DOF present during this press briefing.

Before we proceed with today’s briefing, we’re proud to say that with the effects of our campaign for real change and the unprecedented fiscal spending of our government, we are able to continue to upgrade our economic engine. Our record high spending is a testament to the commitment of the Duterte administration to give a comfortable life to all Filipinos.

Today’s guest needs no introduction. With him at the helm of DBM, underspending in the national government has been eliminated. More so, the Philippines scored 67 out of 100 in the 2017 Open Budget Survey being the ‘Best in Asia’ and 19th in the world. It is also because of him that for the first time in our history, national government allocated a budget to operationalize the constitutional right to access government information. This speaks to his advocacy in improving efficiency, transparency and accountability in the bureaucracy.

Without further ado, please welcome the diligent Secretary of Budget and Management – Secretary Ben Diokno…

SEC. DIOKNO:  Thanks for calling me diligent [laughs]… I haven’t heard of that description. Good morning everyone and thank you for having me, and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you.

I’d like to make some preliminary statements on the implications of a reenacted budget for 2019. If you recall, we submitted the 2019 President’s budget on the day President Duterte delivered the State of the Nation Address.

Article 7, Section 22 of the Constitution says: “The President shall submit to Congress within 30 days from the opening of every regular session as the basis of the General Appropriations Bill, a budget of expenditures and sources of financing including receipts from existing and proposed revenue measures.

As you know, we did not wait for 30 days before we submitted the budget. We submitted on day 1 as we did with the 2018 budget. Unfortunately, it took the Lower House 4 months to pass their version of what is called General Appropriations Bill. Given the limited time, the Senate deliberations and the Bicameral Conference Committee is set for next year. So now we are faced with the prospects of a reenacted budget at least for the 1st quarter of 2019.

Under a reenacted budget, no new infrastructure projects can start because the capital outlays component of the previous year’s budget cannot be deemed reenacted – only the personal services and the maintenance and other operating expenditures are deemed reenacted; capital outlays, let me repeat, are not deemed reenacted. The reasoning is straightforward: you cannot fund and finish the same project twice, right? Hence, new projects will have to wait until the 2019 General Appropriations Act is passed into law.

However, large projects which are covered by what we call ‘Multi-Year Obligational Authority’ or MYOA will not be adversely affected. So the large projects like the subway, the PNR long haul will not be affected, okay, those large projects. At the same time the internal revenue allotment for local government units, some 600 billion, and debt service will not be affected as they are automatically appropriated. And therefore, they will receive the budgetary allocations based on the 2019 National Expenditure Program.

Meanwhile, personal services like salaries, wages, pension and retirement and the like, and the maintenance and other operating expenses are deemed reenacted – but they will be based on the 2018 level. This means that salary adjustments for civilian and military personnel which are programmed for 2019 will have to wait. I repeat: the fourth tranche of the salary standardization for government employees will be deferred until such time the 2019 General Appropriations Act is passed into law.

We estimate that in total, a reenacted budget for the 1st quarter of 2019 will reduce total disbursements by an estimated 44 billion for one quarter – if it is delayed by one quarter. However, if it’s not passed at all so, on a full year basis it will reach 219.8 billion or 220 billion. A reenacted budget will be detrimental to the economic growth and development objectives of the Duterte administration. The government intends to ramp up investments on public infrastructure, poverty alleviation and social services. And we are hopeful that the legislators will see the urgency and wisdom in passing at the soonest possible time, the national budget for 2019.

Thank you, and I’m open to questions now…

USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO:  Okay… I think there’s a video.

SEC. DIOKNO:  Ah, there’s a video? Okay, let’s listen to the video. I didn’t know there’s a video, sorry.


REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO:  Sir, just to be straightforward… Sir after all what have been said and explained, iyong ‘na hindi insertion’, but because of this very, ah kumbaga napakalaking impact sa budgetary natin and expenditures by next year because of reenacted budget. Aside from the road user’s tax na allegedly ay hindi ninyo ni-release, ano pa nga ba iyong—kasi lumalabas nagiging parang personalan na at naapektuhan iyong buong bansa sa personalan between you perhaps against Congressman Suarez and Congressman Andaya. Ano ho ba iyong parang ‘hugot’ or parang acts against you these gentlemen?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Well, I think two things ‘no… gusto ko ipaliwanag iyong pinakitang video ‘no, why I adjusted by 75 billion. Kasi in our parameters, iyong sinasabi kong parameters ng DBCC, the infrastructure as present of GDP should be at least 5%. Kasi iyon ang plano namin eh, from 5 gagawin namin hanggang 7; iyon ang Build, Build, Build Program ‘no. Because I looked at the numbers during the last 50 years – half century, we only devoted 2.6% of GDP sa infrastructure. That’s the reason why complained about traffic congestion, lacks of bridges, etcetera… failing mass transit system.

In the last administration, they have not constructed a single kilometer of railway – not a single kilometer. Our plan is to construct more than a thousand kilometers of railway, okay – so, talagang ambisyoso iyong programa namin. So when I said, “Teka muna, bakit kulang pa iyong sa DPWH budget, 480,” ‘no. That’s why I looked at some—we have more money, we have fiscal—tawag doon fiscal space; sabi ko dinagdagan namin ng 75 billion to make it 555 alright, 555 eh like a famous sardines – 555. So iyon ‘yun… In fact, nagulat nga ako bakit he was talking of 51 lang. Eh sabi ko nga 75 nga iyong idinagdag ko eh – 75.5. That is not necessarily an insertion that is part of the process.

In fact, I remember in 2017 kasi nga under the Constitution, education shall the number one share in the budget, if you remember? So dinagdagan ko rin si Liling Briones ng budget for school buildings, okay. Without her asking, dinagdagan ko lang di ba, to comply with all these requirements. But as long as it happens within the executive department, hindi insertion and tawag doon, that’s really the President’s budget.

I’ll reveal you something which is supposed to be confidential. Because when we talk about this in the Cabinet, maliwanag na sinabi ni Presidente, ‘this is not your budget. Hindi budget ni Secretary Villar iyong ibinigay sa kanya or this is not Liling Briones’s budget, this is my budget. And if you cannot live with it, you might as well think of resigning.’ Kasi hindi naman talaga budget iyan ng individual secretaries, that is the President’s budget.

In fact, I reminded him of a situation in the US under President Lyndon B. Johnson where one of his secretary lobbied with Congress, asked for more, finire (fired) niya iyon, because that is a no-no. You are not supposed to make bilateral deals with Congress, okay, because that weakens the presidency vis-à-vis Congress, all right?

So again, back to your question?

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO:  Naging personalan na kasi, eventually.

SEC. DIOKNO:  Dalawang bagay lang iyon. To me ano, what happened is—of course they are supposed to prepare the GAB, that’s the job of the House. Only the House can prepare a General Appropriation Bill, the Senate cannot, okay. So that’s under the Constitution. Ngayon iyong GAB, pinadala na nila sa Senado; although late but nasa Senado na. Nakita ni Ping ang discrepancy nung President’s budget and the GAB. Eh doon lumalabas na there’s na something like 2.4 billion na bumukol doon sa distrito ni GMA at saka sa distrito din ni Andaya. So, he was trying to ask them, please explain, di ba, eh biglang—instead of explaining, ako naman ang binanatan, di ba. That’s number one.

Alam mo, natural lang iyon eh. They can actually, the House or the Senate can approve our budget, the President’s budget in toto; they can mangle it, if they want to; make amendments—hindi insertion ang tawag doon, amendments. They can amend the proposal and then we don’t mind, tapos na iyon, kasi meron naman kaming defense on the executive. The President, only this President, not even the US President has what is called line item veto power. What does that mean, he can crossed out any changes from his budget that he does not like and then sign the budget and that’s okay.

For example, Congress proposes some amendment to our budget and we find it an improvement or superior to our proposal we let go, that’s historically done. This is the 1oth budget that I have prepared in my entire 32 years in government – 5 kay Cory, 2 kay Erap and this is my third budget, 10 budgets. And that’s the process, we don’t mind if they changed or make changes in our budget proposal because as I said, we have that fallback position.

Now, in the US – to make the story complete – the President of the US, if I remember, Bill Clinton tried to get that line item veto power. He asked Congress to pass a law. That law was struck down as unconstitutional by the Federal Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said this is going to change the balance of power. So iyon, iyon yung situation sa kanila.

So right now, our budget system if you noticed is much different from the US, the President has line item veto power and meron tayong reenactment clause in our Constitution. In the US, they don’t have reenactment clause. Which means, kapag hindi nila napasa iyong budget, nagsasara iyong mga opisina, okay, they close down parks, offices, etc.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO:  Iyon yung pinaka-simple, if they just scrap o i-reduce iyong kinukuwestiyon na insertion o whatever, okay lang naman sana. Pero meron ba silang hiningi na hindi napagbigyan ng executive kaya tigas-mukha na hinarang nilang maipasa iyong budget?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Iyong Road User’s Tax, iyon yung pangalawa. Talagang—but that was upon the instruction of the President. We had a congressional legislative-executive meeting here in Malacañang, naroon ang mga Senate leaders, House leaders and we said, there’s something wrong with this bill – iyong Road User’s Tax. Now, why? Because this is off budget eh, it’s not part of the General Appropriation, it’s off budget.

Whatever is collected by the responsible agencies and we collect something like, if I remember right, 1.5 billion every month. So right now ang balanse noon, is around 45.6 billion, iyong amount na iyon. Alam mo kung sino ang nagdedesisyon lang doon?  Just a small group of unelected officials katulad ko – ako, si Secretary Dominguez, Secretary Tugade, Villar and then I think two or three presidential appointees. There’s something wrong with this. Sabi ko, ‘Why not give this power to Congress? Sila na lang ang mag-appropriate. Why give it to us?’ Kasi tiningnan namin iyong record nitong Motor Vehicles User Charges—iyong Road Board was cited by COA for misappropriating, abuso, something like 90.7 billion pesos. Alam ninyo kung gaano kalaki iyon? That’s 90,000 million pesos; 90,000 million pesos misappropriated.

Kasi nga ginamit iyan noong… at the peak of the GMA noong 2004, ginamit iyan buong bansa is like—street sweepers, di ba, that is not road maintenance di ba, in the first place. Iyong bibili ka ng mga walis, and then bibigyan mo ng uniporme and then you have bloated… magpipirma ka lang doon eh, di ba. That was the tenor of that… findings by COA that 90.7 billion pesos was misappropriated.

And then sumunod diyan, nung time ata ni… who is this commissioner… who is the chairman, si Puno… there’s a Puno somewhere. That was in fact, cited by the late Senator Miriam Defensor, iyang misuse ng road fund na iyan. And so, I decided na hindi namin talaga ririlesan until that issue of the abolition of the board is settled. Ang nangyari naman doon, the House—well the Senate passed a law in compliance with our agreement, abolished the board, sumunod ng House, okay din naman sa kanila, they abolished the board. This was during the time of Speaker Alvarez.

Now, merong disagreeing provision, usually kapag may disagreeing provision between the House version and the Senate version, then you form a conference committee, what I call the third chamber. So naramdaman nila—because of the change in leadership, naramdaman nila na ayaw makipag-meet ng House sa Senado. Gusto nilang i-retain iyong Road Board. Sino ang author nitong ano na ito, guess? Si Suarez, si Suarez ang author nito eh. So, he is trying to protect the Road Board ano. So iyon na nga, nung naramdaman ng Senado na they are not willing to sit down to thresh out the differences in-adopt na nila iyong House version. The Senate adopted the House version, since there is no more disagreeing provision that should be automatic, di ba. Wala nang disagreeing, so adopted na iyong House version and the next thing is they will send it to the President and the President is just waiting to sign it, inaantay na lang niya hanggang ngayong hindi pa.

In fact, the House pagpasok ni GMA, ni-rescind nila iyong kanilang approval, that’s the status on that bill right now. Iyon ang dalawang—to me those are the two counts where they didn’t like my—

HENRY URI/DZRH:  Hi, Secretary binanggit ninyo si Congressman Danny Suarez ang?

SEC. DIOKNO:  He is the author of that Road User’s Tax.

HENRY URI/DZRH: At siya rin po ang dumikdik sa inyo sa Kongreso?

SEC. DIOKNO: Siya rin po iyong namayagpag noong panahon ni GMA – naging head ng ano iyan eh, road board eh.

HENRY URI/DZRH: At siya rin, Secretary, ang dumikdik sa inyo sa Kongreso noong question hour?

SEC. DIOKNO: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Tama bang may binanggit siya na buti walang kidlat dito?

SEC. DIOKNO: Walang?

HENRY URI/DZRH: Buti hindi kumikidlat dito, mayroon yata pong something to that effect.

SEC. DIOKNO: Alam mo, hindi siya makapaniwala na in our family gathering, we do not talk politics. Hindi naman ako pulitiko, we don’t talk projects. Sa kanilang pamilya siguro, they have a different set of values, every time magkikita sila, projects ang pinag-uusapan nila ‘no – but not in my family.

In fact, if you happen to be in that gathering, kapag binanggit mo iyong project, I will tell you to get away. Iyon ang policy ko 32 years ago, hanggang ngayon iyon pa. So hindi siya makapaniwala na we do not talk projects.

HENRY URI/DZRH: So to be brutally frank, Secretary, ano sa tingin ninyo ang nawawala/mawawala kay Congressman Suarez bakit niya kayo dinikdik sa Kongreso?

SEC. DIOKNO: I think, he is speaking for himself and maybe for some other members of—kasi alam naman ninyo election time eh, ‘di ba? Inaasahan yata nila iyon [road user’s], na ma-release iyon para naman siguro magamit nila sa kampaniya. But I tell you, we will not release.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Pero, Secretary, hindi ba bawal iyon? Pera ng gobyerno gagamitin mo sa kampaniya, parang sariling interes iyon

SEC. DIOKNO: Bawal talaga iyon, bawal talaga. But they can’t find a way, you know. Sabi ko nga, iyong walis lang overpriced iyan ‘di ba; iyong uniporme, overpriced din iyon. And that is not really maintenance.

Kasi if you define maintenance, kung mayroon kang kalsada na every five years iri-repaved mo iyon, ‘di ba, iyon talaga ang real maintenance. Hindi iyong walis ka nang walis ‘di ba, that’s not maintenance.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, ‘di ba may parang off-repeated joke na kapag may eleksyon, ang daming mga road works – so, mukhang ito pala talaga iyon?

SEC. DIOKNO: Palagay ko ganoon, palagay ko ganoon.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: All right. So, sir, can you give us more circumstance when you said that the problem seems to be the road board, the fund.

SEC. DIOKNO: And iyong first attempt was to divert attention nga from what Ping Lacson found from the GAB [General Appropriations Bill]; ‘di ba pinapaliwanag nila iyon; ayaw nila ipaliwanag, ako ang tinira nila ‘di ba?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So, sir, would you be able to tell us any additional circumstance doon sa meeting na iyon? Mayroon bang nag-specifically, nanghingi ng pera doon sa nai-release na, doon during the meeting that you said?

SEC. DIOKNO: Marami nang lumapit sa akin. I won’t name names ‘no. Marami nang lumapit sa akin na pulitiko na tinatanong iyong status nga ng road user’s fund na iyon, kailan mari-release and so forth. Sabi ko, hindi ko iri-release iyan until that issue on the road board is settled.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, kahapon po si Spox Panelo sabi niya, the President presumably was the one who told you not to attend anymore the hearing. Since you’re here and we want to get it straight from you, sino sir, iyong nagsabi na huwag ka na lang um-attend for—

SEC. DIOKNO: ‘Di ba nagkaroon kami ng Christmas party last Friday, and then we—I won’t tell you the names, parang sabi ng ano is, we’ll review the protocol kasi we don’t want you to get the same treatment from them.

Sabi ‘di ba, it’s not regular hearing – it’s a question hour; first time nangyari iyan in my 32 years of public service – question hour. Under the rules, I can actually opt not to go there. I can just give a written response, but I insisted. Sabi niya, okay ka lang? Sabi ko, yes, sir. Because I thought these are honorable men, you know. I’ve worked with them for 32 years.

So they prepared 18 questions, three days. Sabi ko, puwede bang i-extend ninyo, three days hindi ko masasagot lahat itong mga 18 questions na ito, but ayaw nila ‘no? And mayroon pang Saturday, Sunday, so wala namang opisina iyon and you have to go through … so I still went there ‘no.

So then, hindi na niya ako tinanong doon sa 18 eh; na-ambush ako talaga. So that kind of behavior on their part, we don’t want a repeat. ‘Di ba sinabi ni Presidente, kapag binastos kayo, you walk out. Ang mangyayari noon, iku-contempt ka kapag you walk out. Eh baka pupunta pa si Presidente doon, he will take me out of there. Eh I want to avoid that crisis, nakakahiya naman ‘di ba. So I went there ‘no, and I just kept my cool under a very tremendous pressure from the questions. I tried to answer all the questions.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, but for the January hearing, it was the President who told you

Na huwag na lang um-attend?

SEC. DIOKNO: More si ES. They are reviewing the protocols. Sabi niya, you don’t have to go there to appear.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, sorry ha, last two questions. Sir, between the national expenditure program – your proposal, and then what the—

SEC. DIOKNO: You know, actually the Constitution says, the President shall submit a budget of expenditures and sources of financing – BESF. Walang nakalagay doon na magsa-submit kami ng NEP. But we submit a NEP para lang tulong nga sa Congress kasi medyo makapal iyon eh.

So to help them, we submit a draft of the NEP. But it is their job to come up with the bill out of that NEP.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay, sir, between the NEP and then the GAB, would you be able to tell us the difference between the two?

SEC. DIOKNO: Yes, I can tell you. Mayroon kaming staff—we do that all the time. Kaya nga after this one, ‘di ba, GAB ‘no pumunta sa Senado, the Senate will have its own version, definitely. They will propose amendments and then they will reconcile. Stage one pa lang iyon eh, iyong GAB na iyon. Stage 2, sa Senado; Stage 3, doon sa third chamber; minsan four eyes only iyon – the Chairman of the Finance and Chairman of the Appropriations. And then they will come up with an enrolled copy, iyon ang kinukumpara namin with the President’s budget – so iyon ang final ‘no.

Kaya nga, the framers of the Constitution are smart eh. They have two chambers checking on each other. Kaya nga legitimate iyong concern ni Senator Lacson. Pinapaliwanag lang naman niya, “Ano bang ginawa ninyo dito,” ‘di ba. Dapat kasi talagang they check on each other. The House and the Senate, as a collegial body, one Congress shall come up with a proposal.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay, sir, I’ll let that go. Doon po sa mga nag-follow up sa inyo na mga Congs… ng status nung sa road user’s tax, kasama po ba diyan iyong dalawa ninyong—well, let’s be specific, Congressman Andaya and Congressman Suarez, na nag-follow up?

SEC. DIOKNO: Lots of congressmen, yes. Yes, kasama doon.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Nag-follow up po sila. And then you said kanina, sir, iyong medyo iyong term ninyo, iyon pong si Congressman Suarez during that time, namayagpag?

SEC. DIOKNO: He was the chairman of the road board during the time of GMA. You can check the records ‘no, if you can Google.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And what did he do at that time, sir?

SEC. DIOKNO: All those 90.7 billion, his appropriation na sinasabi ng COA, most of those happened during his term.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, is it 19.7 or 90?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Ninety, 9-0.


SEC. DIOKNO: Nine – zero point seven.

DHAREL PLACIDO/ Sir, Senate President Tito Sotto said yesterday that he will transmit the road board abolition bill to Malacañang even without the signature of Speaker Arroyo. So how does the Executive plan to deal with this deadlock between the two chambers of Congress?

SEC. DIOKNO: If we get the enrolled copy of the bill, it will be look into by the Executive Secretary’s Office before it goes to the President. So we will—I assume, matagal nang hinihintay ni Presidente iyan, pipirmahan niya iyon.

DHAREL PLACIDO/ Sir, after everything that happened, the two lawmakers who grilled you is identified with the Speaker. So how would you describe the House of Representatives under Speaker Arroyo? And do you think that the change of leadership was something that’s good?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Yeah, the facts speak for itself. We didn’t have problems with the first two budgets of the President. It was actually done before December. About this time, tapos na kami.

DHAREL PLACIDO/ So, sir, what are the thoughts of the President about—

SEC. DIOKNO: I cannot speculate on what the thoughts of the President, okay.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Sec., linawin ko lang. Given na iyong sinabi ninyong re-enacted budget may economic implications ‘di ba tapos prone to corruption pa. Bakit hindi po nag-insist si President Duterte to call for special session? Kasi sinabi ninyo dati nag-request iyong Senate na huwag na muna, bakit hindi niya pinush iyong special session given na iyong impact ng re-enacted budget ay malawak?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Well, that’s the second subject that matter that we talked about when I saw him last Friday ‘no. The first was about iyon na nga, iyong call for me to resign ano; the second was this one, should we call a special session. Now in the meantime, there was a strong request from the senators, sabi nila pagod na pagod na raw sila. Kasi totoo naman, kasi they received the GAB very late eh, and they’ve been working ‘til 2 o’clock in the morning. You can see doughtiness, hanggang 2 o’clock naghi-hearing sila eh; sabi niya, “Talagang hindi ho namin kayang tapusin.” So pinagbigyan na lang namin. So we decided na huwag na lang muna. We decided not to call a special session.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR:  Pero you would have wanted sana na nagkaroon ng—

SEC. DIOKNO:  That was our first best option, to call first. Because no government should have a reenacted budget, I think ‘no. If you can prevent it, you should shoot for—kasi—again in the US, kasi nga doon mas mataas kasi ang presyo na mag—kasi magsasara sila ng mga opisina, they work Saturdays and Sundays and even Christmas day, okay. Kasi malakas talaga ang pressure noong ano eh, but sabi ko sige, puwede naman siguro na… they promised that they will reconvene on January 14 and they—ang plano nila is approve-in iyon before the end of January, iyong budget – which is okay. Kaysa naman… papagurin mo nga naman iyong mga ano eh, so…

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR:  So ang earliest na magkaroon tayo ng bagong budget, February?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Siguro mga middle of Feb…mid-Feb. Kasi hindi naman kaagad-agad—let me walk you through the process. Let’s say they approved it last day of January, they will have to go to the printing press ‘no, that’s about a week. Ngayon pagdating doon sa amin, hindi naman mapipirmahan kaagad ni Presidente iyon, sabi ko nga sa’yo, bubusisiin namin iyon – line by line ‘no, iyong tinatawag na Statement of Difference. So line by line, and that’s how we decide on, “Oh shall we veto this or shall we let go?” etcetera…

So we will have some criteria on whether to veto or not to veto. Like for example, if it’s an improvement over our proposal, let go lang iyon. But if it’s really… it does not belong to our priorities or it’s… in fact it goes against our priorities, pabi-veto ko talaga iyon, I will propose a veto ‘no. So, it takes about another week iyon ‘no, and then mayroong requirement kasi ang batas that you need 15 days ‘no after the signing for the law to take effect. So mga nasa March na ‘yan siguro.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR:  Okay. Last question sa akin, Sec. You’ve mentioned iyong figures already ‘no saka iyong possible effect noong reenacted budget. How would you describe din iyong extent noong effect noong reenacted budget for the first quarter?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Ah first quarter, ah…

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR:  Kasi sinabi ninyo iyong mga figures, so how would you describe? Ganoon ba—

SEC. DIOKNO:  219.8 billion iyong mawawala eh ‘no, pagka full year iyon. Kung reenacted, around 43.7 billion. Kasi hindi pa namin naku-quantified ‘yan, kasi the ideal months for construction are the first six months of the year, so iyon ‘yung seasonality ‘no; so baka malaki din ang epekto noon. Right now ang lakas na ng momentum ng… this administration. I can say that this administration, in its two and a half year have done more than any other administration ‘no in terms of infra, okay. So iyong momentum na iyon baka medyo ma-slowdown nga because of the reenactment.


DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG:  Hi, sir. Moving forward, do you see the same problem recurring in the future budgets that you will prepare? Because these are also the same congressmen who will—

SEC. DIOKNO:  No, no… I’m hopeful na hindi na siya mangyayari, kasi there’s going to be a new Congress ‘di ba, may eleksiyon tayo eh. So the midterm, there will be a new Congress, hopefully much more… much friendlier than this one, okay. Friendly naman ‘tong Congress na ‘to, kaya—

DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG: And then sir, of course there’s this call to replace you from the House of Representatives—

SEC. DIOKNO:  That’s settled, wala na iyon, oo ‘di ba…

DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG: So sir, is somebody eyeing your job in the House?

SEC. DIOKNO:  That’s speculative. They can have my job if they want to. You know, I did not apply for this job, okay, but I serve at the pleasure of the President.

DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG: Sir, last na lang po. Senator Lacson was saying that there’s this new ‘pork parking scheme’ where congressmen give—I don’t know the mechanics, but what do you know about this?

SEC. DIOKNO:  You know, again, this part of the job to divert attention ‘no. They will—I’m sure this is not the last ‘no, they will come up with new accusations para huwag nila sagutin iyong tinatanong sa kanila ni Senator Lacson ‘no. To me, that’s alien – iyong parking ‘no. I don’t know about parking.

DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG: So, it po iyong—these are among the changes that they did from the budget you submitted to the budget they reacted?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Yes, yes, yes…

DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG: So, iyon ‘yung difference?

SEC. DIOKNO:  But that’s internal to them eh, hindi ko alam kung—kasi I think that is more applicable to partylist representatives kasi wala silang distrito eh ‘di ba, wala silang constituency. So siguro they will talk – I’m just speculating here ‘no – they will talk to a congressman: “Sir, puwede ko bang i-park diyan iyong project na ito,” or something like that…

DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG:  But you compared the President’s budget with the GAB they prepared, right?


DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG:   So, didn’t you see this kind—

SEC. DIOKNO:  Actually hindi kami, ang nagko-compare niyan is the Senate, okay… what changes did the House did—puwede naming gawin, pero I know that it’s not final so why waste my time ‘di ba? ‘Di ba… I have a lot of things to do. Babaguhin nila iyon… binago nila iyon, dadating sa Senado, babaguhin din ng Senado; napunta sa third chamber, babaguhin din nila doon… Gusto ko na lang makita kung anong product nila ‘di ba, and then I compare those ‘no. You cannot compare it at every stage, that’s time consuming okay? I have better things to do.


CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN:  Sir, good morning po. You have mentioned that you’re expecting na more issues would be thrown against you. Ano pa po ba sa tingin ninyo iyong maaring ibato—?

SEC. DIOKNO:  But not necessarily against me, but other issues like iyon na nga, iyong parking – walang kinalaman sa akin iyon ‘di ba? And let me explain ‘no, the process ‘no: I’m responsible for preparing the budget ‘no, that’s primarily my responsibility. And then, I’m responsible for implementing up to releasing this SARO. But right now, it’s—75% of the SARO is automatically released, okay, under our new system which I adopted 20 years ago, okay.

Na there is no discretion at the part of DBM whether to release, as long as it’s in the General Appropriations Act, automatically released ‘yan. Ang hindi lang namin nire-release ay iyong mga special funds like calamity fund kasi hindi mo naman alam kung may calamity ba o hindi, or iyong mga contingent fund ‘no. So, automatically released na iyon.

From there, it’s not my responsibility to implement – implementing agency iyon. It’s not my responsibility to choose contractors, hindi ko iyon area – kanila iyon. And the choice of contractors is done by competitive bidding – that’s the law. You cannot choose contractors at your whim and choice, ganoon. Hindi ka puwedeng mamimili ng contractor, okay.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN:  Sir, regarding that 75 billion na adjustment sa DPWH and the contractors na you have mentioned that it’s not your expertise, like it’s the DPWH’ expertise. I’m just curious, kasi during the—last week, at least 8 Cabinet officials came out with this letter of support sa inyo. I wonder bakit kaya wala doon ang DPWH, and have you talked with Secretary Mark Villar?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Hindi mayroon si Mark, mayroon siya… And he admitted that 75 billion, alam niya iyong 75 billion.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN:  So bakit ini-insist ni Congressman Andaya na… iyon nga.

SEC. DIOKNO:  Ang sabi ko nga, baka nagha-hallucinate lang siya…

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN:  So, okay naman kayo ni Secretary Villar? Mayroong communication?

SEC. DIOKNO:  May statement na siya kahapon ‘di ba, that—kasi hindi maaring hindi niya alam iyon kasi sinulatan ko siya eh, that we added 75 billion. And we presented it to the Cabinet. Kung nasa Gabinete ka hindi mo alam iyon, eh that’s the most important part of your job, know your budget hindi ba? Siyempre tsetsekin mo kaagad, magkano ba ang budget ko hindi ba. And if you don’t know that, eh hindi ka nakikinig doon sa deliberations sa Cabinet ‘di ba.


ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW:  Hi sir, good afternoon. Sir, sabi ninyo hihimayin ninyong mabuti iyong budget. Since nabulgar po iyong—o naisiwalat po iyong tungkol doon sa C.T. Leoncio, kasama po kaya iyon sa mabubusisi ng DBM considering po na parang inaakusahan po kayong may conflict of interest?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Unang-una, you will not see that name in the budget okay. Kasi ang naroon lang iyon, iyong mga projects na gagawin but that has to go through competitive bidding – kung manalo si Leoncio or whatever his name is, then he will get the project ‘no. But let me deny here that I don’t know that guy; I don’t know his face, I don’t know him from Adam okay? Inaakusahan nila iyong daughter ko raw is related. My daughter is married to a ‘Sicat’ okay, married to a Sicat; and his father died, then iyong mother niya remarried this Sorsogon politician. So I’m not related to the Sorsogon politician whatsoever. And as I told you, we don’t talk about this in our gathering ‘no, in our family affairs okay.

ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW:  Pero iko-call n’yo ba iyong attention ng DPWH, since infra project po yata iyong na-corner ninyong C. T. Leoncio or.. na-involve sa intrigue eh?

SEC. DIOKNO:  All the projects under DPWH are public works project, it could be flood control, it could be roads, bridges, etcetera – etcetera. But, sabi ko nga, every project ibini-bid po iyan, bini-bid. You have to win, okay. The politicians cannot chose, who will implement what. I don’t know kung ginagawa nila iyon or how they do it, but hindi ko area ho iyon, okay.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR:  Sir, since you said this will reduced total disbursements by 44 billion, iyong reenacted budget…

SEC. DIOKNO:  If reenacted for one quarter.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR:  Yes, for one quarter sir. So how will this affect the first quarter GDP growth sir, and are we still confident that we will be able to hit the government’s target of 7 to 8% GDP growth for next sir? Kasi, sir di ba may election ban po ng March to May. So, even though the budget will be reenacted by first quarter – March to May election ban – so, for the full year, what’s our outlook, sir?

SEC. DIOKNO:  So, this will depends on a lot of things ‘no. Like for example, if the weather in the second half of the year is nice, then that’s not a problem. If they approved this, early enough, we can maybe bid it out early and some of them are already being bid out. Short – tawag namin, bidding short of award, you cannot award without the budget approved. So ngayong lahat ng proseso ginagawa na namin and then kapag napasa iyong budget, ia-award na.

Secondly there is an option also called—you can ask Comelec to exempt these projects as long as you identify the projects that you want exempted, puwede rin naman iyon. So, depende kung ano ang mangyari.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR:  But, sir for the first quarter GDP po, meron po ba tayong projection like how many percentage points po, kasi di ba na-project na po natin iyong amount ng reduction sa total disbursements by first quarter, so baka napag-aralan.

SEC. DIOKNO:   43.7 billion.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR:  Yes, yes. So sa first quarter GDP po.

SEC. DIOKNO:  But there are many projects that are ongoing right now, they could take actually be accelerated in the first quarter of the year, to make up for some of the nonstarters. So let’s see, we’ll try to minimize the damage to the economy. But I think it’s premature at this time to say, that this will actually slowdown the economy that much. Iyong scenario na iyon, worst case iyon, iyong it will slow down the economy by -1.1 to 2.3. It will result in—full year iyon, full year impact. It will result in job loss of about 600,000. It will result in a deeper poverty for some 200 to 400 individuals – iyon diyan ang worst case scenario. Let’s hope hindi na dumating sa ganoon.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR:  But sir, how would you describe iyong effect po niya sa economic growth natin. I mean even for the first quarter. Do you think this is significant, costly?

SEC. DIOKNO:  I said premature to say that to be significant, mildly significant, not significant. Let’s not speculate on that. But definitely, negative ang impact niya, 0kay negative. How severe? We don’t know.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  Sir, clearly wala pong maasahang projects iyong lawmakers from the Road User’s Fund, because you mentioned you will not release them. Do you think, they are looking at using the reenacted budget to raise funds for their campaign war chest, as you mentioned na posibleng  ginagawa nila and how do you guard against this especially  iyong sa paggamit noong..?

SEC. DIOKNO:   Wala ngang ano, no new projects, if reenacted.  We will release from the motor vehicle’s tax until they settle the abolition issue.  So there’s no way they can use the reenacted budget for political purposes.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  So iyong funds for infrastructure projects which you mentioned earlier were already funded and completed, they also cannot touch those?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Kaya nga different iyong interpretation namin. Ang interpretation ni GMA/Andaya noong time niya is kanila na iyon, yung part na nire-reenact nila iyong capital outlays eh. That is not allowed under the Constitution, hindi allowed iyon. Only the current operating expenditures of the government are deemed reenacted,  not the capital outlays.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  Okay, and sir, you have been saying that they are trying to divert attention away doon sa nakita ni Senator Ping Lacson. As far as you are concern, tama po ba, is there is something wrong doon sa nakita nga po ni Senator Ping, and is the President going to veto iyong nakita ni Senator Ping, if true, iyong significant addition doon sa budgets of some select districts?

SEC. DIOKNO:  You see, the Constitution says, Congress may decrease, but not increase the budget as submitted by the President. So, the mere fact na bumukol iyong dalawang iyon, it meant that they took it away from some other items in the budget, ‘zero-sum game’ ang tawag doon. Zero sound game – iyong pagtaas ng Pampanga at saka ng Camarines Sur that will be at the sacrifice of other districts. Now, is that allowed, of course, it’s allowed, okay. It depends on who the leaders are, right?

But, kailangan nga lang nilang ipaliwanag, iyon lang naman ang sinasabi ni Ping Lacson eh, ni Senator Lacson, explain, di ba?  But to me, as you know, we are already putting a lot of money in that part of the country right, with our massive infrastructure.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  And if it’s not justified – their increases, will the President veto it?

SEC. DIOKNO: Depende kung naroon pa iyon, by the time dumating sa amin, okay.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Sir, just on the veto power. Would you be able to detect if a budget allocation is kind of shady?

SEC. DIOKNO: Kind of?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Shady, sir?

SEC. DIOKNO: We will rely on the line departments. We don’t have the expertise at my level for that.  For example if you find something suspicious we will ask the department secretary concern, saan ba nanggaling ito. Kailangan ba talaga ito, hindi ba?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  And you will do that during the?

SEC. DIOKNO: Yeah, during that one week period.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  And of course the President will exercise the veto power kung halimbawa alam niyang.

SEC. DIOKNO:  I’m sure the President is very strong against corruption.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  So, even if during the budget process, the lawmakers try to maybe you know, do what they have done before.

SEC. DIOKNO:  Yes, yes. Sabi nga, they can do what they want to do. They can mangle it, right; dismantle the budget or approved it in toto, if they want to; they can do whatever they want. But we have the check which is that veto power.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER:  Sir, the President is clearly behind you in this issue and given the strong statements of support by Secretary Panelo, when you explain this matter to the President, what did he say, sir? What was his general reaction on this issue?

SEC. DIOKNO:   Wala lang. In fact, I was having, ready na ako, ang kapal-kapal nung briefing materials and we just talk, siguro mga maximum mga 5 – 10 minutes. Tinanong lang niya sa akin, “Iyong bang 75.5 billion na sinasabi nila, na in-insert mo was it in my budget?” Yes, sir.   Tapos wala nang problema, okay iyon lang.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER:  So, he accepted sir iyong?

SEC. DIOKNO:    Of course. You know, that’s really my job. I’m the budget architect and I said I’ve done this for 10 budgets in the past, okay. Hindi si Presidente micro manager eh, siguro iyong ibang Presidente na line by lined – hindi siya ganoon. He picks his men and he trust them totally until you make a mistake, alright. So ganoon, that’s a good manager ano. Kasi hindi mo naman talagang… if you are the President, you cannot do all the things you want to do. You have to choose your men, choose them well and then give them the authority.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER:  Sir, si Speaker Arroyo daw is interested daw sa job mo.

SEC. DIOKNO:  Sa job ko? My goodness… Kala ko kay Secretary Dominguez, hindi naman sa akin. Finance, di ba may rumors, sabi nga, di ba, sabi ni Secretary Dominguez, ‘interesting’.  But these are all speculation, okay.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  She is interested in the Finance Secretary position?

SEC. DIOKNO:   There was a rumor like that.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Soundbyte. Pero, sir ano ang reply ni Sec. Dominguez. Baka siya iyong mag-budget, sir?

SEC. DIOKNO:   I heard him saying ‘interesting’, that’s it.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Secretary sorry po, pero MPC is not yet ready to release you, last question Dreo Calonzo.

DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG:  Sir, you were a vocal critic of President Arroyo during her administration.

SEC. DIOKNO: Even Aquino, okay?


SEC. DIOKNO:  No, because I was, as you know, I was a newspaper columnist at that time. So kailangan medyo provocative ka pag nagsusulat eh, di ba, para binabasa ka naman.

DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG:  So, does this have anything to do with all the issues you are facing today?

SEC. DIOKNO:  Ako iyong mga writings ko is based on theory, based on wisdom, etcetera. Walang personalan doon, if you noticed ano. In fact, I’ll come with three books on my articles. I’ve been very consistent on pork barrel, I don’t like pork barrel. In fact, if you don’t know, I’m one of those who filed a suit in the Supreme Court for this ‘DAP’, I’m one of the proponent – ponente.

DREO CALONZO/BLOOMBERG:  Sir, last na lang po, do you think this Congressmen who are lodging attacks towards you are working with the Speaker’s blessing?

SEC. DIOKNO:  That’s calls for speculation.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Okay, thank you, Dreo. Thank you MPC. Thank you Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.


SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)