Palace to probe alleged ₱75 billion infra 'insertions' in 2018 budget

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 12) — Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday said Malacañang will look into an alleged ₱75 billion pork insertion in this year's budget

This comes after House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. questioned Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno for supposedly inserting multi-billion peso allocations for infrastructure projects in the budget proposal.

In a heated exchange during the question hour at the House of Representatives Tuesday, Andaya said the 'insertions' took place without the knowledge of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

"Since there are allegations of corruption, it follows that we have to investigate," Panelo said in his Palace media briefing.

"We will go to the bottom of this. Secretary Diokno has denied involvement in the allegations made by Congressman Andaya."

The Palace maintained there will be no 'sacred cows' when it comes to holding public officials accountable.

"This president is no respecter of friendship, of alliances, of party affiliation, of friendship. His principle is you follow the law, you violate it, you'll account for it. You engage in corruption, you will be fired," Panelo added.

The spokesman, however, noted President Rodrigo Duterte still trusts Diokno, calling the latter a "man of integrity."

In a separate press briefing Wednesday, Diokno meanwhile said Duterte had approved the budget proposal amid Andaya's accusations that the President was unaware of the infrastructure project allocations.

The delay of next year's budget passage has been marred with controversies as some solons suspected "pork" insertions in the ₱3.757 trillion national appropriation.

READ: Arroyo, Andaya deny getting biggest budget for 2019

The Palace earlier denied that the "pork" impeded the budget passage.

Some senators previously speculated on the possibility of a reenacted budget as the Senate may not have enough time to go through the bill.

A reenacted budget means the 2018 budget will be implemented again in 2019. This also means that there will be no new projects or allocations until a new budget has been passed.

Executive to create independent budget department?

Panelo added he wants a creation of an independent budget department, which will solely look into the needs of local government units and districts around the country.

"Perhaps it's better if we have a department-- created by the executive-- whose function is just to go over the country and look at what exactly are the requirements of every district and then recommend. So that the accountability will only be one," the spokesman said.

"Unlike now, we don't know where it's coming from. It's finger-pointing all over. While if you only have one entity that will decide, the accountability will fall only in one office."

CNN Philippines Correspondent Ina Andolong and Digital Producer Alyssa Rola contributed to this report.