Even if the mother of Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar is a member of the Senate, the Chamber is not inclined to go easy with the DPWH budget.
Senator Cynthia Villar is the mother of Mark and husband of former Senate President Manuel Villar.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III guaranteed his colleagues will not “soft pedal” in scrutinizing the controversial budget of the agency.
Senator Panfilo Lacson has flagged P396 billion worth of lump-sum appropriations under the 2021 National Expenditure Plan (NEP) as submitted by the Executive department.
In an online news forum, Sotto said the DPWH will be one of the agencies that the Senate will focus on especially if they spot a “sore thumb” sticking out in its budget proposals.
Insofar as the Villars are concerned, Sotto said his colleague, Senator Cynthia, does not meddle in the scrutiny of the DPWH budget just like in past Senate deliberations.
Cynthia won’t interfere
“I will answer it head-on. No. We will not soft-pedal on DPWH and knowing Cynthia, she will not interfere. I’ve seen it in the past,” he said.
“There are a lot of interpellations in the DPWH budget and we have not seen her stopping us from doing our job. So, it’s alright,” he added.
He expressed confidence that Senate Finance Committee chair Sonny Angara will not let any questionable items get through the Senate, especially now that the NEP and the House-submitted General Appropriations Bill (GAB) are being reconciled.
“When it comes to the DPWH budget, I think our Committee of Finance, headed by Senator Angara, will not mince words if he finds something that is sticking out like a sore thumb in the budget.”
He also mentioned Senator Panfilo Lacson’s observations on lump-sum appropriations in the DPWH budget.
“Hopefully, we will find nothing. If there are any, we will identify where it will be spent. If it is in the form of a line item. That is what I am expecting to happen in our budget version.”
NEP addendum queried
The DPWH submitted an addendum to the NEP to itemize the lump sum items in the agency’s budget.
Lacson earlier noted the “mangling” of the P666.47 billion budget of the agency as he observed the increase of local infrastructure programs after the addendum was sent by the DPWH.
He cited information from some congressmen, claiming that there have been lawmakers’ interventions and haggling during the crafting of the addendum sent by the DPWH.
Aside from at least P62 billion in allocations for multi-purpose buildings, Lacson also noted the uniform P1 million earmarked for 42 districts under the NEP.
Lacson said he will introduce amendments to the DPWH budget once it is discussed in the plenary.